Unite, strengthen & rebuild: Vote YES to Business Recovery, Transformation & Growth

Royal Mail Group (EMP), Postal


Serious discussion, robust debate and unity of purpose at London, Glasgow & Belfast local rep meetings, as all-UK tour concludes…

Last week’s face-to-face meetings with delegates from Northern, South West and South Central England, the Midlands and Wales were followed up this week with briefings for those from London, South East England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, as the CWU continued its nationwide collective conversation. And once again, the discussion was honest, respectful and, in the words of our general secretary Dave Ward: “A real credit to this union, to our fantastic reps and our unwavering commitment to our democratic principles.”

From the TUC’s Congress House in London to a packed venue in central Glasgow and then onto Belfast’s Windsor Park football stadium, the agenda of each event was the same. The CWU leadership explained the new Business Recovery, Transformation & Growth (BRTG) agreement in detail, with Dave Ward and our acting DGSP Andy Furey presenting the key elements of the deal – national industrial officers Mark Baulch and Davie Robertson then going into more specific operational detail – and then answering reps’ questions, addressing their key concerns and replying to the various, and diverse, points of view expressed from the 59 separate contributions made from the floor at the three meetings.

Adding this week’s 59 to the 39 contributions made at last week’s two briefings, a total of 98 CWU reps spoke in total at the five events. And, reflecting on the tour of the UK, Dave Ward told CWU News: “It’s been inspiring to hear so many heartfelt contributions from our frontline activists. These men and women truly are the lifeblood, the backbone, of this great union and, in mine and Andy’s responses to their various questions and viewpoints, I hope that we got across to them just how much we, the union’s leadership, sincerely admire them for the fantastic job they all do.

“The issues raised can all be addressed through the various clauses of the BRTG agreement – it’s our view that only by endorsing this agreement can we make progress on these points. But only if the company keeps to the pledges it has made in the document and this is something that the CWU leadership is working hard to ensure.”

Revisions & USO compliance: ‘Paragraph 2.5’

(A selection of quotes from reps, whose names and units have been omitted)

‘Managers are not working with reps and are showing huge disregard for the agreement. When are we going to see this change?’ (London Briefing)

‘There’s no engagement with the IR framework. After this call with Mr McPherson, will there be any consequences? Or is it just lip service?’ (Belfast briefing)

’They’re still telling us packets are the priority. It’s pitiful.’ (Glasgow Briefing)

‘We’ve got revisions that don’t work and management who don’t care about the USO. What’s going to happen if we vote no?’ (London Briefing)

There was clear anger among the union’s leadership upon hearing, at first-hand, instances of local managers acting as a law unto themselves – the most common subject raised by reps. Examples were cited of the stress being caused on a daily basis by unworkable or unachievable delivery revisions, of managers showing a disregard for the company’s legal and statutory USO obligations, and even a disregard for several of the commitments that both the CWU and Royal Mail have signed up to in the BRTG document itself. Both Dave and Andy repeatedly cited, and quoted, Paragraph 2.5 on Page Three of the agreement, which is entitled: ‘Improving Quality of Service and USO Compliance’ and states:

‘RMG and CWU are committed to urgently improve and achieve Quality of Service for all
products across all functions and USO compliance in all offices. To facilitate this both parties
commit to implement an agreed set of measures to address current issues, restore
performance where necessary, and will jointly develop a process involving RODs/General
Managers/Divisional Reps. Future revision activity will involve the restoration of joint working
in all functions in line with current national agreements including the IR
Framework. Revisions will be based on efficient, fair, and achievable workload. RMG and
CWU recognise that this is an essential step in fostering improved relationships in the
workplace and delivering the aims and objectives of this agreement.’

The agreement, therefore, clearly does include a joint commitment to putting right current issues as well as a return to full adherence to the IR framework for future revision activity, they assured the assembled reps. So seriously did the CWU leadership take the numerous complaints on these issues that urgent conversations have been held with senior company bosses in which it was stressed to them that a failure to address this would adversely affect the outcome of the forthcoming BRTG ballot. At this week’s three briefings, Dave and Andy gave updates on these conversations and informed reps that the company’s chief operating officer Grant McPherson had agreed to schedule a meeting of the union’s divisional reps and the company’s regional operational directors next Monday and that a nationwide ‘zoom’ meeting of every unit rep and every unit manager has also been requested.

Many questions were asked as to why the union had put the original ballot timetable back by one week and our general secretary explained – at the briefings and also in a video message on the union’s social platforms – that this was to give the company this opportunity to prove to the workforce that it would abide by the commitments in the agreement. If the Royal Mail leadership did not take this opportunity to make this clear, at all levels, then the CWU leadership may have to reconsider its decision to put out the ballot. The point was made as well that, just as there are various political factions campaigning for a ‘no’ vote in the ballot, so there are factions within the Royal Mail leadership who also want BRTG to fail.

Lord Falconer Review: ‘Appendix 7’

(A selection of quotes from reps, whose names and units have been omitted)

‘We’ve had members sacked and others suspended, some still with no charges laid. We’re recommending a YES vote, but something needs to be done and quickly.’ (London Briefing)

‘I’m going to vote YES for those sacked and suspended guys. I don’t like parts of the deal. But just to get these guys back’. (Glasgow briefing)

‘If this ballot doesn’t go through, what is the alternative?’ (London Briefing)

The many disciplinary actions taken against reps and members during the course of last year’s dispute was also high on the list of concerns raised at each of the briefings. Suspended or dismissed activists who spoke were warmly applauded by their colleagues and in their responses, CWU leaders expressed solidarity and support and explained in more detail about the forthcoming Review being undertaken by former Attorney General Lord Falconer (BRTG, Appendix 7, P 34/35). Acting DGSP Andy Furey told the meetings – and also the wider membership in a video message – that there is a deadline of 26th May for submitting cases to Lord Falconer for inclusion in this Review and he urged reps to make sure members are made aware of this.

During the discussion, the point was made several times that, in the event of a majority no vote, this Review will be cancelled and that, therefore, voting YES was the only way to ensure that it takes place.

Pay, company finances & future growth

Royal Mail’s financial results for 2022/23 reported an adjusted operating loss of £419 million – an enormous negative turnaround from the equivalent 2021/22 figure of a £416m profit. The figures had been widely expected and the overall perilous state of the company’s finances has been referred to at all of the local rep briefings.

The blame for this situation lays entirely with Royal Mail’s senior management, our general secretary said in his speeches at the briefings – a point he also made in broadcast interviews on Sky News and GB News.

While it was true that the market conditions had changed significantly in the post-pandemic period, those at the top of the business had made a difficult situation immeasurably worse by handing huge sums in dividends to shareholders, paying themselves enormous bonuses and embarking on a vicious attack on their own workers and on the CWU, he explained, in particular, the hiring of agency workers in an attempt to break the 2022 strike action.

The financial situation apparent in the early part of this year was the key reason why the union’s leadership had decided not to call for further action after the renewed strike mandate from the February ballot, and the key reason why the CWU had reluctantly accepted some of the most difficult aspects of the BRTG agreement.

And, although the briefings expressed an almost unanimous feeling of deep disappointment at the pay award, strong opposition to the company’s impositions of new contracts for entrants and at some of the other changes, there was also a general acceptance that the only way to mitigate these setbacks was to take a longer-term approach and to work patiently – within the context of the agreement – for improvements over the coming period. With regard to the period ahead, our general secretary referred several times to the ‘Achieving Growth’ Paragraph 2.3 on Page Two of BRTG. This clause, he said, was extremely important in the struggle to grow market share and expand the role of the delivery worker – both socially and commercially – and was something that should be highlighted and driven forward.

While some of the leaflets being handed out by political factions to reps entering the briefings in York, Birmingham, London and Glasgow had argued for a complete rejection of the deal, a ‘no’ vote in the ballot and a resumption of industrial action, this latter call-to-arms was not echoed inside the meeting halls. Only three speakers among the overall total of 98 contributors at all five meetings made clear calls for renewed strikes.

In summary…

Bringing the last of the briefings to a close in Belfast, Dave said: “Thanks so much to you, to your members and to all the CWU reps and members all across the UK for what you’ve done over the past year – It’s been battering and bruising.

“There have been times in this dispute when we thought maybe it was the end – the end for this company and the end for this union, but we’re still standing, we’re still intact.”

Our general secretary continued: “We haven’t got all we want, but we have got a strategy and basis for improving this. Getting a settlement is a win – getting the union totally back in the workplace is a big, big win.

“Have a look at this deal – are you better with the deal or better with no deal?”