Royal Mail strikers rallying last December. They must not lose further momentum (Picture: Guy Smallman)

More action needed to win at Royal Mail

Royal Mail workers are set to begin voting next week to carry on striking in a battle for the future of their jobs and livelihoods.

The CWU union formally told Royal Mail bosses of the ballot on Monday of this week, with voting papers set to be sent out from Monday of next week. The reballot—demanded by anti-union laws—comes after six months of solid strikes.

Royal Mail bosses are on a mission to transform Royal Mail into a “gig-economy” style parcels courier. They want to force through sweeping changes to working conditions and pay, including job cuts, later hours and a more casualised style of working.

They haven’t abandoned their plans, but CWU leaders have promised not to call any more strikes until a round of talks ends on Friday of next week.

Bosses last week agreed not to cut certain premium ­payments. And last month they said they’d make no compulsory redundancies. Union leaders say this is a sign that they could soon get a deal.

General secretary Dave Ward even said that another strike vote would be enough to tip the balance, telling ­workers, “We win that yes vote, we sort out and win this dispute.”

Yet in their own message to workers, bosses said that the funds to keep the ­premium payments would come from money “already allocated” to their “final offer.” That suggests it could mean cuts elsewhere. And the premium payments won’t be offered to new starters—who bosses still want to bring in on worse terms and conditions—­meaning a two-tier workforce.

Meanwhile, workplace managers are still pushing ahead with changes to delivery duties—merging them into fewer, longer routes. And they’re still victimising reps and members—well over 100 have now been suspended or sacked since strikes began.

The reballot mustn’t be used as just a bargaining chip in talks. And it would be a big missed opportunity if Royal Mail workers didn’t strike alongside others on 1 February.

Victory means forcing bosses to drop their plans entirely, not secure some concessions. And winning that will take more, longer strikes.

Nick Clark

Beware dangers of rotten rail deal

There were persistent rumours at the start of this week of a deal to end the rail strikes. But if the final offer is anything like the leaks, it should be firmly rejected.

Transport secretary Mark Harper said rail bosses were working with a “revised mandate”. That means the Tories have lifted some of the restrictions on a new offer.

Harper said he had made a “big change” in the approach to strikes. That’s because workers have continued strikes and defied attempts to break them.

But the Tories still want to defeat the strikes, and are pouring money to the privateers. Department for transport figures show that private train operators made £310 million in taxpayer-funded profits between March 2020 and September 2022. Rail workers have had their pay frozen in the same period.

By September this year, operators will have made in excess of £400 million, all of which can be turned into shareholder dividends.

This is in addition to the estimated £300 million of taxpayers’ money spent indemnifying the companies so that they don’t lose a penny as a result of strikes. Talks between unions and the Rail Delivery Group, which represents train operating companies, continued last weekend.

But the reported pay offer is around 9 percent over two years—a massive real terms cut. Other sources said that ministers had agreed to row back on plans to expand the introduction of driver-only operated trains.

However, about 45 percent of trains carrying 55 percent of passengers are already driver-only operated.

It’s also very unclear if there is any movement on other issues such as near-universal ticket office closures, compulsory Sunday working, changes to annual leave and sick pay, changes in job descriptions—and more. Network Rail Chief Executive Tim Shoveller has repeatedly insisted that up to 1,850 maintenance jobs will go—either through voluntary or compulsory methods.

All rail workers, whatever union they are members of, should keep fighting to defeat the attacks on jobs and conditions and for a pay rise that at least matches inflation.

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