Post Office pay dispute – ‘This is the fight – let’s have it!’Postal, Post Office (PO) February 17 2022
Strike ballot campaign kicks off with lively national reps briefing in Birmingham…
“Chins up and chests out – this is the fight, let’s have it,” was the message from CWU deputy general secretary postal Terry Pullinger to the union’s Post Office Counters, Admin and Supply Chain reps, who gathered yesterday to plan the first steps of their strike campaign against the company’s pay freeze.
Meeting on the same day that a further rise in the cost of living was reported by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), delegates voiced growing determination to fight for a fair deal – many citing anger and fury from their hard-working members.
Despite workers putting in extra efforts and taking on more duties throughout the pandemic, staying open to the public while bank branches closed; continuing to deliver cash and essential supplies to offices; and ensuring the UK continued to receive vital services; arrogant and out-of-touch Post Office bosses have continually refused to raise their pay over this past year.
New Year talks called by arbitration service ACAS failed to shift their stance and last month’s Postal Executive approved a request from assistant secretary Andy Furey to move towards a statutory strike ballot in accordance with the law.
The Postal Executive has now moved to the second stage of the strike process by formally approving the timetable for this ballot, which will open on Monday 7th March and close three weeks later on Monday 28th March.
And at yesterday’s briefing, Supply Chain unit and area reps; and Crown Office and Admin reps were joined by branch and regional secretaries as the ballot campaign plan was debated.
Our DGSP Terry Pullinger opened the event with a rousing call to arms, reminding those present that their cause was absolutely justified and that the whole union is behind them in their struggle.
“There’s a massive moral case here,” he told the meeting. “And the people running the Post Office have got no moral compass whatsoever. You worked throughout Covid, the same as the people in Royal Mail, and there’s a debt of honour here and that’s what this fight’s all about.
“This is key workers getting dumped on. This is a row about a pay rise you should have had – you’re going into a huge fight, and we will do everything possible to back you.
“What we need is a massive turnout and a massive Yes vote. Let’s all get to work for this,” Terry urged.
‘How dare they say we don’t deserve a pay rise’
Andy Furey spoke next, as the union’s national officer for Post Office members, and cited the rising levels of anger among the workforce – particularly since they received a staff communication from Angela Williams, group chief people officer earlier this month reiterating the employer’s pay freeze position.
“How dare they say you don’t deserve a pay rise,” he began, and added: “We need to give them a rude awakening.
“We know they want to get rid of all the remaining 114 Crowns – so there’s nothing to lose and everything to gain by standing up now and fighting back.
“We’re at a watershed now. We’re fighting for pay in this particular strike ballot, but also the future of our members and their jobs and the Crown network are vitally important and cast a shadow over everything we do.”
The union is “confident we can deliver strong Yes vote,” Andy continued, explaining that home mailings have gone out to members, with another one being sent out this week; and setting out the activities being planned for the weeks ahead, which will include a Facebook Live broadcast and an all-member zoom rally, as well as ongoing face-to-face events and workplace meetings.
“We’re all working hard to get the right result for our members but in reality we are pushing at an open door as our members are angered by the insulting disdain shown to them by Post Office.”
Reps report solid backing for strike plan
Our two Post Office Supply Chain area reps Alan Robertson (North) and Rob Jones (South) gave strong contributions to the discussion form the perspective of our Cash & Valuables in Transit (CViT) and Cash Centre members, Rob saying: “Our members are absolutely livid. They worked hard all through the pandemic and now they get smacked in the mouth.
“Members are going to fight. We’ll fight and we’ll win.”
Alan strongly criticised the Post Office leadership too, making the point that “for them to turn round and say we’re not getting a pay rise, this year, when everything’s going through the roof – it’s not a pay freeze – it’s a pay cut.”
“We’ve got to get that big Yes vote.”
And CViT reps from the big Birmingham, Newcastle, East London, Manchester and Swansea depots all echoed those sentiments – each of them predicting massive Yes votes from their respective units.
Carole Bowmaker, CWU Post Office counters area rep for Scotland, Northern England and Northern Ireland reported back on her visits to Crown offices so far, telling the briefing: “I’ve never seen them so up for a fight as they are now – people are so fed up at how they’re being treated” and adding that she will be heading over to Northern Ireland to speak with members over there.
Newly elected CWU Northern Ireland regional secretary Erin Massey introduced herself to the meeting and pledged 100 per cent solidarity from all members for the Post Office workers’ struggle.
“I’m from the telecoms side of the union myself, but as regional secretary, I want to help to build support for you as much as possible,” she pledged, adding: “We’ll give a big welcome to Carole when she comes over and I’m looking forward to helping and supporting her.”
Chris Roche, representing counters members in the South West and Wales, described members as “seriously angry and seriously up for it” and added: “There’s no doubt in my mind that we’ll get a big Yes vote,” while fellow area rep Tim Pavelin also predicted: “We will get that Yes vote.”
Other speakers in the debate included branch and regional secretaries – all pledging their support and solidarity for our Post Office members’ pay fight – after which the briefing broke into small area-based groups for some practical discussions, where these regional and branch representatives talked and planned for the campaign ahead with Post Office reps from their own areas.
Our members are angry – heading for a spring and summer of discontent
Replying to the debate and summing up the day, both Andy and Terry stressed the vital importance of achieving the highest possible Yes vote and the biggest possible turnout.
“The anger is the massive thing here,” said our DGSP, emphasising the need to focus relentlessly on members’ pay and the sheer unfairness of a profitable company freezing wages after staff worked so exceptionally hard serving the nation.
Predicting strong public support for the campaign, Terry commented that so many other workers around the country will be feeling similarly at this time, saying: “I think the whole nation is coming out of the pandemic angry!”
But, he cautioned: “Let’s have no complacency here. Don’t take anything for granted. Leave no stone unturned. Everything hinges on achieving a massive return and a massive Yes vote.”
Andy said that he had been “really encouraged by the contributions” during the discussion and that “Post Office management have badly miscalculated. This is going to backfire for them badly – we know they can afford a pay rise and so do they.
“The key message here is we’ve got to get the vote out. We’ve got to galvanise everybody. I think we’re going to have a spring and summer of discontent if the Post Office does not wake up and smell the coffee.”
Serving notice on company 28th Feb
Ballot papers out 7th March
Ballot closing Monday 28th March