18/10/2009 - Support grows for national postal workers strike


UNLESS a last-minute deal can be done, Britain’s postal workers will go on strike towards the end of next week. The national strike action will take place on Thursday 22nd and Friday 23rd October.

On Thursday, all mail centre staff and network drivers - around 42,000 postal workers - will be out for 24 hours from 4am. And on Friday, delivery and collection staff - around 78,000 postal workers - are set to strike for 24 hours.

As we noted in out News Article - Posties strike to defend future of service - of 9th October, postal workers voted by 3:1 to take national industrial action. This follows a spate of regional strikes in the long-running row over pay, jobs and working conditions.

Solidarity Trade Union understands the postal workers reasons. General Secretary Patrick Harrington said: “They are taking this desperate action to defend the future of the service. The destruction of the postal service must be halted”. 
He also re-stated Solidarity’s primary argument that the Royal Mail should remain a national and public service – not a business. Despite government propaganda, the strike should be seen as an attempt to defend this vital public service. 

However, the roots of next weeks industrial action go back a long way. They stem from an agreement between Royal Mail and the unions which ended the last national strike - two years ago.

Mr. Harrington noted:

“For workers, the two other main sticking points are modernization and pensions”.

Royal Mail claims it is implementing changes to its working practices in an attempt to modernise its service. However, unions say that changes were implemented that went way beyond what was agreed. Subsequently jobs, pay and services have been cut. (Indeed, going further back, around 53,000 jobs have been slashed since 2002)

Workers also fear that virtually all their full-time jobs will be replaced by part-time ones or by people on temporary contracts. In practice, this means part-time work = part-time pay, part-time pensions, part-time sick pay and part-time rights.

Postal workers are not against modernisation per se. They want the new technology – they want to get rid of the old machinery. Modernisation should mean an improvement to all services – not lumbering less staff with more work.

The issue of pensions is also of grave concern to Royal Mail workers. In April 2008, they overwhelmingly rejected changes to their pensions. Around 92 per cent were against the closure of the final-salary scheme to new entrants as well as other changes.

Most workers regard pensions as a form of ‘deferred wage’, payable when one retires. Usually payments are made into a pension scheme on a weekly or monthly basis. What you ‘save’ during one’s working life is what one ‘earns’ during retirement. However, Royal Mail management now seem to imply that a pension is some form of bonus.

Workers are also rightly worried about the reported deficit in the Royal Mail’s pension scheme. However, this is not the workers’ fault. Apparently Royal Mail bosses decided that it should take a contributions “holiday” for more than a decade, even though workers carried on paying in as normal. Consequently, there is a “black hole” in the region of £10 billion. 

Despite this Royal Mail made a massive £321 million profit last year. Directors and managers have apparently been awarded massive handouts because of this. For instance, Royal Mail boss Adam Crozier has been at the helm since 2003. During this time, he’s pocketed a massive £6 million in pay and bonuses. Talk about a fat cat!

Mr. Harrington said that all Solidarity members who hold joint CWU membership and  should actively support the strike. “It’s up to everyone to make a principled stand here. Support the national  postal workers strike. If we don’t, our national and public postal service will be destroyed”.