Royal Mail: vote against this deal!

Submitted by AWL on 22 March, 2010 - 1:42 Author: Ed Maltby

The ballot on the Communication Workers’ Union’s deal with Royal Mail will now run from 7-23 April. The leadership is now busy giving union activists their marching orders, lining up reps and branches to go out and campaign for a “yes” vote in the upcoming ballot on the deal.

One rep told Solidarity, “there have been a number of reps’ briefings going on recently, but it’s generally just the top table talking up the deal”.

Another said, “the leadership have made it quite clear that there is no plan B — this is it. They regard the deal we have as a strong bargaining position”.

The deal is bad. It represents no concessions from management on the big questions of job cuts and restructuring, and will allow Royal Mail to continue with its agenda of eroding wages and casualising the industry unabated.

Delivery staff will find themselves carrying more junk mail for less money. All postal workers should join with delivery workers in rejecting this deal — in the name of solidarity with their colleagues in deliveries; but also because this deal will sign away the job security of all postal workers.

Several branches of the CWU have already voted to recommend a no vote in the ballot — including Bristol and District Amalgamated and South East Wales Amalgamated and the unit reps’ network in the North Lancashire and Cumbria branch. We will be speaking to branches that vote to reject the deal, and reporting on the campaign for the “no” vote.

Branches, reps and CWU members and activists who oppose the deal should co-ordinate their campaign against the deal nationally as a first step in creating a rank-and-file platform of postal workers which is politically independent of the official leadership.

Rob Wotherspoon, a deliveries rep from Bristol, spoke to Solidarity about the decision by the Branch Committee to reject the deal.

Why was the vote to reject the deal unanimous?
It was unanimous because we believe it's a very bad deal for delivery workers who make up the majority of workers in our branch. So in the name of unity, people who didn't work in delivery were prepared to reject it because it wasn't good enough for part of the membership. But there are no guarantees that mail centres will stay open, either. They reckon Royal Mail are planning to close half of all mail centres within the next three years. We don't believe that anyone who works in a mail centre can feel that secure in their jobs; there are no safeguards for them in this deal.

Delivery workers are going to be ending up working longer on the weekend, on the street longer, and to add insult to injury for many delivery workers, they will be taking a pay cut for at least the first year. We currently get paid an extra rate for doing “door-to-doors”, unaddressed items of mail [junk mail]. We get paid a piece rate per item for those. This is all going to be put into one payment but that also includes an earlier sum, so effectively you only get paid £8 a week for doing door to doors. On average now, people are getting £20-30 a week for doing this. People are taking a pay cut for this.

Why did the CWU postal executive committee vote 'overwhelmingly' to accept this deal?
I'd say I think a lot of them are out of touch with the membership; and there's probably a few people who don't have the courage to stand up and say when something's wrong.

What should other people who disagree with the deal do?
They should do the same as we will be doing: meet the members in the workplaces. For the next few weeks our branch will be going out, meeting members in delivery offices, and we'll be sending out a letter to people's home addresses, talking directly to members, telling them to reject the deal.

In terms of the wider union we have expressed our opinion at briefings and other branches will make up their own minds. We intend to lead by example.

What do you think of those branches that oppose the deal meeting up to co-ordinate a national campaign?
Maybe not a bad idea. But we do not have much time before the vote and we will be concentrating on meeting with our members.

Comments

Submitted by AWL on Wed, 31/03/2010 - 13:38

Why did your branch committee vote to recommend a no vote?
We made an informed decision based on all the facts. I didn't make this decision until I'd gone to a number of meetings, including national briefings. This agreement is not the worst agreement, but it's not the best agreement either. In Portsmouth, the financial losses are too great to support it. We are not getting enough information. We have a mail centre that could be closed, we're not being given information either way about that. To accept this vote would be relying on information that we don't have.

A postal worker in Portsmouth doing deliveries could be losing £30 a week via this agreement. I'm not slating our negotiators who look at things nationally, but we are a high-volume area for door-to-door mail. But we are looking at our mail centre staff and our delivery staff and seeing how they get on.

We know that our mail centre is high on the list for closure; the building is not fit for purpose. They're talking about reducing 50% of mail centres, and the agreement doesn't give us any assurance as to the future of our mail centre.

How are you campaigning for a no vote?
The same way we would as if we had voted for a yes vote. We've put letters out, we're putting it out on facebook. We put notices up in the mail centre, but because it was a no vote, management have taken it down. And if this agreement is about building new relationships with management and they're taking that sort of action, it doesn't bode well. It's a CWU noticeboard, it's a CWU letter, it wasn't appropriate to take that down and that will only antagonise our members more.

Why do you think the PEC voted overwhelmingly to accept a deal that is bad for delivery staff and gives no assurance on mail centre closures?

I can't speak for the PEC because I'm not on the PEC. I'm a branch secretary.

What would you advise to branches who are opposed to the agreement if it wins in a ballot?
We will have to campaign possibly through motions to conference on the situation. It's democracy, it's a national ballot and we will have to live with it.

What do you think of the idea of a national meeting of branches campaigning for a no vote?
I can't see that it would do any harm - but it would be a committee decision as to whether we would get involved.

Submitted by AWL on Wed, 31/03/2010 - 13:40

What do members in your branch make of the deal?
A lot of our members are saying that there's not enough in it. The majority of members in NI will lose money over door-to-door. Others are complaining about the lack of detail. The deal talks about RM 'consulting': we've had experience of the way RM 'consults' - they tell you what to do and they don't negotiate.

How are things going in the negotiations with management under the Interim Agreement at the moment?
Generally it looks like management are trying to rush through savings - speed-ups and so on - in advance of a ballot on this agreement, and then they'll try and get further savings once the deal has gone through.

How do you think the vote on this agreement will go in your branch?
It's a hard one to call at the minute but I think it'll be very tight.

A lot of posties are saying that you have to vote 'yes' to this deal because 'there is no plan B'. What might a 'plan B' look like?
My first reaction was to reject the agreement and keep what we have at the minute. After going to national briefings I've changed my opinion of it - but I'm still concerned that we'll be at the beck and call of RM whatever happens. It comes down to RM's interpretation.

Why do you think the PEC voted overwhelmingly to put this deal out there?
It's hard to think what the PEC's reasoning was in this case. Maybe they just wanted something, anything to bring the industrial action to a halt.

Submitted by AWL on Wed, 31/03/2010 - 14:38

I spoke to an activist from North Lancashire and Cumbria CWU branch, where the unit reps' committee voted to recommend a 'no vote'. The major reason that the committee voted against accepting the deal was the situation it meant for deliveries - a lack of assurances on lengths of walks, and issues to do with delivery workers losing money on door-to-doors.

He said that a problem for the no vote was that there wasn't a clear strategy for what would happen if the membership rejected the deal - "The leadership have made it quite clear that this is it, that there is no 'plan B'. They regard this deal as a strong bargaining position."

Submitted by AWL on Wed, 31/03/2010 - 15:01

Eastern No.6 CWU branch committee has recommended a 'no' vote in the ballot on the deal. Kamal Badhan spoke to Solidarity

Why the no vote?

There are issues in there around deliveries that need to be addressed, like walk spans. A lot is left to local negotiations and we think that, locally, Royal Mail won't negotiate - and then we're back to square one.

For example, we have already been told that the director for our region has given a minimum 4 hour walk span without negotiating with us.

What is the plan B? What should the union do if we reject this deal?

We'll cross that bridge when we come to it. All we wanted to do was sort those issues out around deliveries before we accept the deal.

Door-to-doors aren't nearly as big an issue as the question of locally negotiating walk spans. The 2007 agreement was all about local negotiating and that's why we had a strike last year

Why did the PEC put this deal forward?

There are safeguards in there that both parties will negotiate to everything. The union is committed to negotiate, but we're not so sure about Royal Mail: we still have our fears that they won't want to negotiate at the local level.

Submitted by AWL on Wed, 31/03/2010 - 18:00

Why is your branch advocating a no vote?

"The decision to oppose the deal was made jointly by the unit reps, our senior reps and the branch committee. There was a lot of feedback from the reps from the shop floor. They felt the members weren't happy with a deal and the branch committee thought the same thing. The primary thing was that we went on strike last year against certain changes that management was imposing, things like late Saturdays, new delivery methods brought in by stealth, and we think that these still exist hidden in the new deal. We haven't seen anything saying what the call rates and the walk speeds would be under the deal and we think we are being led in blind. And late Saturdays is a big impact, especially in SE Wales where people play a lot of sport on a Saturday, spend time with families and so on. And as for the promise for a Saturday off in four or whatever it is, we can't see Royal Mail committing to that.

"We have started out our campaign already. The branch has put out a couple of copies of our local newsletter, the Grapevine, and they will be putting out another just before the ballot."

Why do you think the PEC voted for this deal?

"I think they might have been put in a situation where they could not vote against the deal, someone might have come back and said, 'there is no other deal forthcoming, it's this or nothing'. They might have had no room for manouevre. But our branch thinks there could be a different work pattern on Saturdays: why not?"

Supporters of the agreement claim that 'there is no plan B'. What do you say to that?

"As someone who has been a unit rep for some time, I know there is always a plan B. You don't go in and give away everything all at once, you give and take, but you always leave yourself some room, you don't show your hand all at once. So, on the door-to-door, we would have preferred a gradual change in the rates, or a gradual work up towards a different work pattern on a Saturday. They say they can't go back. But what happens if there is a no vote? Where do they go then?

"Senior managers identify reps and branches that are voting no. It's not so much in-your-face victimisation. We put up a “no” poster and someone defaced it with a sticker, and we expect it was a manager."

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