The final text endorsed by the CWU Postal Executive on 22 October seems to differ from the terms negotiated between CWU leaders Billy Hayes and Dave Ward and Royal Mail bosses on 12 October mainly in added warm words. The core is the same.
CWU postal workers will now be balloted on the deal. The timetable for the ballot has not been set.
CWU leaders obviously didn't think the deal was likely to be accepted back on 12 October; but the greatest weight in favour of a yes vote in the ballot will come from the simple fact of delay. Industrial action has been demobilised, and the members have scandalously been left for ten days with the message: "Trust us. Complicated negotiations. About what? Oh, can't tell you that yet. It's only your jobs and work conditions and pay we're talking about. Complicated things, which you'd best leave to us".
The final sticky point was the unilateral changes introduced by Royal Mail bosses after the four days of strikes on 4 to 9 October. On that the terms are: "All managerial executive action notified to take place on and from 24 October 2007 will be returned to stage 3 of the IR Framework and any disagreements previously at Stage 3 will be returned to Stage 2 for resolution. All parties will work together in a positive way to resolve outstanding issues within the spirit of the national agreement and to facilitate this any CWU representatives who have had their facility time suspended will have it restored. Any revisions introduced during week commencing 22 October will be reviewed in line with the IR procedures".
The main agreement says: "Royal Mail has introduced later start times for operational reasons. CWU note these changes. Given that there has been little or no opportunity for discussion about these changes at local level, both Royal Mail and CWU are committed to resolve any outstanding issues. Royal Mail and CWU will urgently review these arrangements at local level in line with the following: Henceforth the normal start times will be between 0600 and 0630..."
The terms include a wide-ranging drive for "flexibility".
* Bosses can vary your daily hours within a weekly total, so "individuals could be scheduled to work 7 hours on a Tuesday and 9 hours on a Friday".
* "Individuals may be asked... to vary their duty times by up to 30 minutes on a swings and roundabouts basis".
* You may have to work in another office nearby instead of your normal workplace, or "to undertake other work outside [your] normal duties".
* Following on, there will be "new arrangements to cover for one another and develop sensible options to absorb absences, and increased workload... annualised hours or banked hours, flexible working".
The problem is here is not only increased management control, and decreased control by workers over their own work conditions, working hours, and daily lives. It is also that in Royal Mail, with low basic wages, many workers depend heavily on overtime to make ends meet. The terms are designed to cut overtime, and thus effectively cut pay, without reducing toil.
Two other measures will also cut back workers' access to payments above the basic: "the majority of night shifts will cease by March 2008... Royal Mail will cease Sunday collections from 21 October".
The "flexibility" is to be negotiated locally, but with the proviso that offices will get the next pay rise - 1.5% from 7 April 2008 - only after they have implemented the "flexibility".
The headline pay deal is 5.4% from 1 October 2007. But that covers the whole period from April 2007 to April 2009, supplemented only by a lump sum of £175 per full-time worker to cover April-September 2007 (but that comes from the Employee Share of Savings Scheme, i.e. it is double-counting money already supposed to be available) and the conditional 1.5% in April 2008. With the losses of overtime and bonuses, it looks like many postal workers will suffer a cut in real pay.
The pensions issue has been separated from the pay agreement. A 90-days "pensions consultation process" will follow. But, if the pay-and-conditions deal is accepted, that "consultation process" will take place with Royal Mail bosses knowing that it is very unlikely indeed that the CWU will try new industrial action however bad the pension terms. Or, to put it another way, the deal means the union terminating its most powerful industrial action for over a decade without securing something solid on pensions.
The agreed terms for the "consultation" include "the final salary scheme to be replaced for the future by a similar defined benefits scheme" and "a new scheme for new entrants". In other words: the final salary sc heme will go for all workers; and whatever protections existing workers gain, new entrants will be on something worse. The terms include "the right to retire at 60 for existing scheme members", but don't say what level of pension those existing workers will be able to get without working to 65.