Workers in Royal Mail are set for a new 24-hour post strike between Thursday and Friday of next week in a battle over pay and the future of their jobs.
But the strike comes after a long period without action and as bosses steam ahead with attacks on jobs. Meanwhile CWU union leaders are showing signs of abandoning action in the desperate hope of a deal.
The strike is set to start for shifts beginning at 12.30pm on 16 February. It means it will begin mostly with processing, collections and distribution on Thursday, while delivery workers will strike on Friday morning, 17 February.
It is the first time they will have struck since hugely well-supported strikes in December, which caused major backlogs across Royal Mail.
Union leaders called the latest strike after Royal Mail managers pushed on with changes to delivery duties—merging them into fewer, longer routes. Top bosses had promised that while talks were ongoing, changes would only happen through the normal negotiations with local union reps.
In return, union leaders held back from calling strikes—but bosses pushed on regardless.
Union leaders spoke of “intimidation” from managers “let off the leash” as they push through changes, while more than 200 reps and members have been suspended from work.
Announcing the strike last week, CWU general secretary Dave Ward said he had taken CEO Simon Thompson’s promise “in good faith.” But it is at least the second time in this fight that Thompson has used talks to delay action—then doubled down on his assault.
In November last year, CWU union leaders postponed strikes in an attempt to “de-escalate tensions” for talks. Thompson responded by threatening even more job cuts if they didn’t give in to all of his demands, and by suspending hundreds of union members and reps.
Ward spent much of a live video broadcast on Friday of last week fielding questions from union members on why he trusted Thompson, and why he’d waited so long to call more action.
Worryingly, he replied, “It was never going to be about backlogs of mail winning this dispute,” adding, “There’s not going to be a single knockout blow.”
Instead, he said he hoped pressure from shareholders, and strong criticism of Thompson by parliamentary committees, would also help workers win. But Thompson is seeing through attacks that shareholders have wanted for years.
And the fate of workers at P&O ferries—sacked last year despite strong opposition from the government and exposed in such committees—shows parliament won’t stop him.
More worrying still, union leaders suggested they would call next week’s strike off if bosses return to implementing changes through the usual local discussions.
The strike next week is the very latest that workers can legally take action under the mandate of their current ballot. Anti-union laws say a strike vote is only valid for six months.
Results of another ballot are also set to be announced on Thursday of next week. But anti-strike laws also say the union must give at least two weeks’ notice of further action after that.
Workers could strike earlier if they’re prepared to defy the law over unagreed attacks. Royal Mail workers have a recent, strong tradition of unofficial walkouts to beat back bullying managers and defend union reps.
Workers were in their strongest position against Thompson when their strikes clogged up Royal Mail’s network. All-out action designed to bring the whole thing to a standstill can beat him.Original post