By a London postal worker
Postal workers have succeeded in giving Royal Mail bosses Leighton, Crozier and the rest of their mob a bloody nose in the fight over imposed conditions.
On every issue that provoked the unofficial strikes over more than two weeks up to 4 November, management has backed down: no victimisations, restoration of the Industrial Relations framework and national agreements. Clear-up of backlog on the basis of "fair and manageable workload", normal allocation of overtime and a commitment to achieving a national agreement on single delivery ("Major Change") by 10 December 2003 - instead of managers trying to impose savings locally without agreement.
Union officials' facility time will be withdrawn for up to 28 days except for "negotiation, consultation or individual representation." But in Royal Mail boss Adam Crozier"s letter he "accepts that, to our knowledge, the CWU did not instigate unofficial industrial action." (!) No legal measures will be taken out against the union.
This undoubtedly adds up to a victory in the struggle to remove management's "Punishment Charter". True, it does not include anything on London Weighting. But it was management who were desperate to portray the strikes as being about London Weighting. During the dispute, a clear consensus emerged that the aim of the unofficial action was to get rid of the Punishment Charter, hence the national escalation of the dispute.
The Joint Statement was approved by local reps before they called their members back to work. It was decided that returning to work united with a victory was the best course of action. This does not mean London Weighting has gone away.
We have forced some limited progress on London Weighting. Along with national pay, it will be included on the agenda at ACAS negotiations. Before, Royal Mail refused to even speak to us about it. Of course, we don't expect ACAS to be our saviour - just ask the firefighters, who are still trying to get their money promised to them months ago.
Activists in London must demand that industrial action be reinstated over London Weighting. This victory should give us confidence. Royal Mail tried to challenge the legality of the union's ballot for strikes on London Weighting in the High Court, but it still stands.
What we must do is go beyond 24 (or 48) hour token stoppages to indefinite action, if possible. And we need to have joint action with the other unions that involves, for instance, not having three separate demonstrations on the same day, as we had on 16 October when both postal workers and local government workers struck on London Weighting.
We"ve definitely won Round One and are in good shape for the next one.
Alternative view - A lost opportunity
The return to work is a lost opportunity. The strike has given Royal Mail management a bloody nose, but it is still a big lost opportunity.
The walk-outs were about the way management dealt with the return to work after the one day strike over London weighting. Management have been forced to back down on their bullying of strikers, and workers bravely defied the anti-union laws. All that is good, but the strike was called off with no result on London weighting, and that is a bad and a mistake.
The strike was called off for an agreement that management would not victimise strikers or override agreements on the return to work. Management may have been beaten, but what have postal workers won?
The strike put postal workers in the strongest position to win on London weighting, and the CWU leadership were wrong not to make the dispute about both the attack on the union and London weighting.
Would workers stay out for London Weighting?
I hope London would, because it's the best chance of winning. Maybe the Dave Ward/ Billy Hayes team will win a great deal on London weighting in a way that an all out strike shutting down most of the postal system could not, but I doubt it. On the picket line in Oxford, one rep and one other member said to me that the strike should not end without an result on London Weighting. In any case a victory for London would be a victory for the whole union.
Ending the strike is a lost opportunity for the CWU to win an improvement in the pay of their members. It is an example of the failure of the leadership to push home the advantage to victory.