Terry Pullinger tells Royal Mail: ‘No justice, no peace’Postal February 27 2020
“Let’s make history and let’s tell Royal Mail, as Paul Kennedy said earlier: ‘No justice, no peace’,” commented our deputy general secretary postal after today’s 500-strong national reps briefing in central London.
Terry had brought the lively gathering to a close with a stirring call to arms, urging the union’s key activists to “give it everything we’ve got” in their efforts to maximise the turnout and YES vote in the forthcoming Royal Mail national ballot.
“We can beat the last ballot,” he predicted, adding that the CWU’s struggle would inspire a generation of working people.
“We can do it – lets go to work,” he concluded, to rousing applause.
With less than a week until ballot papers start arriving on approximately 110,000 CWU members’ doorsteps, regional, divisional, branch and area representatives had gathered at TUC headquarters for the latest updates from the CWU leadership.
As well as an inspiring address from our DGSP, the packed conference also heard a strong and thought-provoking speech from general secretary Dave Ward and gave a warm CWU welcome to guest speaker Ann Alexander, from the education union UCU, which is in the midst of strike action over various issues.
Our other guest speaker, TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady, received an even more enthusiastic reception – her pledge of support and solidarity from all six million UK trade unionists for our members’ struggle won her a standing ovation as the audience rose to their feet and applauded long and loud.
Among the enthusiasm and fighting spirit on show today, however, was a strong emphasis on the crucial importance of collective discipline and restraint in the face of the company’s campaign of provocation around the country.
There are currently 34 requests for local ballots in response to Royal Mail managers’ impositions of various instances of executive actions – ranging from removals of CSS machines and alterations to shift and duty patterns to unagreed revisions – and Midlands divisional rep Paul Kennedy (who made the “no justice, no peace” comment during his contribution) and Bristol & District Amal Branch secretary Rob Wotherspoon gave details of difficult situations in their respective areas.
Nottingham Mail Centre members are under threat of drastic changes to their working arrangements, while bosses at Bristol Mail Centre have threatened to axe 100 jobs – along with a point-blank refusal to rule out compulsory redundancies.
In his response, Terry thanked them, the unit reps and the members involved in all of the workplaces affected for their forebearance in the face of such provocative behaviour by the business and noted that these executive actions appear to be part of a deliberate strategy.
This week’s National Gate Meeting Day had been a massive success, he said, praising the sheer effort put in all around the country to organise over 800 workplace meetings on one day – and added that it was likely that this success had increased the company’s determination to provoke a premature flashpoint.
But these provocations must not be allowed to succeed, Terry insisted, saying: “This whole union owes you a debt of honour for keeping your discipline,” and explaining that Royal Mail management are “trying to get under people’s skins, because they’re petrified of the national ballot and they want to provoke unofficial action by our members.”
Terry promised that, after the national ballot has concluded, if the company ask for talks, the union will refuse to begin negotiations while any of these executive actions remain in place.
Mutual solidarity with the UCU
Ann Alexander brought with her the support and solidarity of the UCU, which is involved in an ongoing industrial dispute over rising workloads, pay inequality, job insecurity and pay devaluation.
“You’ve got your Four Pillars and we’ve got our four fights,” she told the meeting,” as she explained the strike action being taken by her union.
“We are fighting for the future of education as well,” Ms Alexander pointed out, adding: “Our working conditions are the students’ learning conditions.”
If strike action by the CWU goes ahead, the two unions should support each other’s pickets and work together to raise public support, she suggested, saying: “Together we can win.”
Dave Ward sets out challenges for the union, the business, shareholders, and the Government
Our general secretary’s speech followed immediately after Ms Alexander’s and he thanked her for her words and pledged the CWU’s 100 per cent backing for her and her fellow strikers.
“UCU is a great fighting union in a major struggle and we absolutely offer our support and solidarity to them,” he promised.
Our own Royal Mail dispute is, Dave said: “Entering a new phase and the most important thing now is to deliver a massive YES vote and a massive turnout.
Dave thanked every CWU rep for their hard work and described them as “a credit to the CWU and a credit to the whole movement.”
Our general secretary cited the recent fall in the company’s share price as a reason for their current highly provocative behaviour, which he described as a “panic reaction.”
The company’s plan is, he continued, undeliverable, and so this is now “a big, big moment,” he told the meeting, and then went on to talk of how this could present an opportunity for the CWU to put forward our own plans and ideas for the future of the business.
Posing rhetorical questions to give the audience food for thought, Dave asked: “Can we stop RM separating Parcelforce? Can we convince Royal Mail from a commercial perspective that their strategy is wrong? Can we convince them that we need a new solution in deliveries?”
Moving onto the subject of technology, our general secretary insisted that we should not oppose technology itself, but oppose its application “as a weapon against workers” and, instead, win the shorter working week as “our share in the benefit of technology.”
The union’s immediate task is to win the biggest possible YES vote, to avoid any legal action against the ballot, and to make any strike action effective, Dave said.
But, we should “not put all our eggs in one basket,” he warned, and also talked of the need for dialogue and engagement with Royal Mail shareholders and with the Government – making sure they both hear and fully understand, the CWU’s vision for the future of Royal Mail.
Workplace tensions, campaign update and legal brief
Assistant secretaries Mark Baulch and Davie Robertson set out in further detail the specific issues in dispute in delivery and in processing and distribution respectively.
Davie sharply criticised the imposition of AHDC and resource scheduler, making the point that “resource scheduler takes the debate out of resourcing and therefore it takes the union out of resourcing.”
Mark compared the company’s use of technology to “electronic tagging” and slammed management’s “disgraceful treatment” of delivery workers.”
Both Mark and Davie echoed the DGSP’s call for collective discipline in the face of company provocation.
Mark urged: “We need people to remain as calm as possible” and Davie agreed, saying: “let’s work as hard as we can and get the vote out.”
Assistant secretary Andy Furey spoke on issues affecting MDEC and Customer experience members, and also gave an update on the progress of the CDC pensions legislation. (See previous web story for further details on CDC).
Our CWU communications head Chris Webb explained the campaign strategy for the ballot period, which is aimed at encouraging the biggest possible participation and asking members to vote YES.
And CWU senior deputy general secretary Tony Kearns gave an important brief explaining the important points around the need for us to maintain full compliance with the law.
Who won the biggest applause today?
Frances O’Grady received an extremely warm response from the meeting, as she praised the “spirit and imagination” shown by the CWU in our struggle – citing both our use of modern methods and our traditional workplace meetings.
“Your Gate Meeting Day was moving, fantastic and 800 members delivering one single message, telling Royal Mail they must respect and honour the Four Pillars agreement,” she said.
Royal Mail should “step back from the brink,” she urged, adding: “You have to earn people’s respect and you do that by respecting and working with the CWU and honouring agreements.”
To the assembled she said: “Stay strong, stay solid, stay united.”
“The whole movement will back you and we will win,” the TUC leader concluded, to a rousing standing ovation. (And a big hug from Dave!)
Parcelforce briefing at HQ
Today’s briefing followed yesterday’s gathering of Parcelforce reps at the union’s HQ.
Deputy general secretary Terry Pullinger and assistant secretary Davie Robertson gave the regional and depot reps a full update on the current situation, how we got here, and the next steps forward.
As previously, Parcelforce members will be receiving two ballot papers, they explained, and urged the reps to encourage their members to vote YES/YES.
Davie congratulated the reps for delivering a “fantastic result” in the previous two ballots, saying: “The vote you took part in, the referendum in which you passed judgement on the company’s proposals, was instrumental in halting the separation plan.
“And Royal Mail members also backed you in a monumental show of solidarity.”
But the separation plan had not gone away completely and was still the intention of the company, he explained.
So, although the Parcelforce ballots are currently still ‘live’ and have not been subject to any legal challenge, it is necessary to ballot again, because the initial ballots will expire within a specific period.
“You meet your members and talk to them every day – please deliver another huge YES vote,” Davie urged.
“Let’s send the message back that you do not support the company’s vision for the future. Back the union, back yourself, back your future.”
In his comments, Terry said: ““Your vote is as important as everyone else’s and we’ve got to absolutely show our resistance.
“The message from me is that we’ve got no choice but to get a massive YES vote.
“We’re going to fight this and fight this all the way.”