This year’s CWU Conference comes as the pressure in both the postal and telecoms sectors is set to increase.
In the Postal sector the threats from Royal Mail to close more mail centres has been met by postive ballots for strike action in the areas affected. The key question is whether those members affected will be left to fight alone or whether the Union will call a national ballot.
A motion from the Postal Executive giving them the authority to take national industrial action has been passed. Meanwhile, officers are in talks to see whether a deal can be done on the redeployment of staff from closing mail centres.
Unsuprisingly it is some of the better organised mail centres such as East London that are in the front line. There is a real threat of compulsory redundancy as members who are redeployed may not be offered viable alternative posts
At CWU General Conference a motion calling for the TUC to coordinate a general strike was passed. However, this is just hot air if the CWU is not prepared to call members out on matters that directly affect them in the near future. It is unclear whether the leadership at national or regional level is up for this.
On pensions, the majority of members still retain rights to PRI-linked increases. Both Royal Mail and BT schemes have been “reformed” significantly already in the past few years.
There was a big focus at the Conference on the need for the CWU to renew its efforts to recruit across the whole of the postal and telecoms sectors and not just in areas where we have large membership such as BT and Royal Mail.
Whilst the union also has recognition in firms such as O2 and Virgin Media and substantial membership in firms such as Sky and Orange, the CWU still has a long way to go before it is seen as the union for all communication workers.
At the Special Rules Revision session of the CWU Conference this year the union moved from annual to biennial executive elections, a regressive move that was only opposed significantly by the Communication Workers Broad Left, a predominately Telecoms supported faction. Annual General and Telecoms Conferences were retained but annual Postal Conference will change to alternative “Forum” based meetings.
The NEC size has been reduced by over a third, however it is not clear that the cutback in union officers will match the cut in lay representation. The tradition of the CWU as a lay led organisation has been dented by these changes.
In the Telecoms sector the newly formed “Left Activist Network” is supposedly a left rival to the CWBL, but has shown itself at Conference as nothing more than cheerleaders for the bureaucracy.
LAN activists have supported the reduction in BT pension rights, the three year below-inflation BT Pay deal and the introduction of “Service Delivery Transformation”.