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

Royal Mail union leaders were hoping to reach a deal on Sunday of this week to end their members’ long-running fight for the future of their jobs. But an agreement they signed last week—a precursor to a final deal—serves as a warning that they could try to settle it on bosses’ terms.

Royal Mail workers reacted with anger and disbelief after CWU union leaders unveiled an agreement that commits reps to overseeing attacks on working conditions. It was supposed to deal with recent assaults on jobs and working conditions. CWU general secretary Dave Ward had insisted there couldn’t be a final agreement until managers had stopped making changes without consulting local union reps.

Now Ward has agreed that changes would continue with union reps’ involvement. In practice, it makes CWU reps responsible for agreeing and implementing cuts alongside managers. Many workers watching on Facebook and YouTube reacted with anger as Ward announced the agreement.

A collections worker from Bristol mail centre told Socialist Worker, “I was getting more and more pissed off as the briefing went on. They said that reps are back at the table. But they’re back at the table with their hands tied behind their backs and a gun pointed to their heads.” Top bosses want to force through sweeping attacks. Last week Ward said he had agreed to revisions “to try and assist the financial situation in the company.”

Meanwhile the agreement also leaves union reps and members suspended during the dispute—some 200—at the mercy of an “independent” review. Acting deputy general secretary Andy Furey said that 29 workers at a delivery office in Redcar were set to attend disciplinary meetings last Friday after an unofficial walkout against revisions. “We’re trying to say to management, be clever, don’t make a bad situation worse,” he said.

Royal Mail workers could still yet overturn it. Workers at Tyneside mail centre in Gateshead walked out unofficially between Thursday and Friday of last week over revisions. More of that sort of action—with open calls on others to join them—can stop the changes.

Size of civil service strike vote shows strong feeling

Some 33,000 civil servants are set to join the 100,000 who’ve already struck, after voting for action in ballots that ended last week. The ballots, by PCS union members in nine government employers, all hit the 50 percent turnout threshold demanded by anti-union laws. It means that as many as 133,000 workers across the civil service are set to strike on Wednesday of next week. This includes in the HMRC tax office and the Welsh Government.

The civil service workers are fighting after government bosses offered them a pay increase of just 2 percent last year—a massive real terms pay cut. Some 100,000 of them struck on 1 February this year. And some have been taking part in a programme of rolling, “targeted” action across the civil service. Workers in the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency and in the schools inspector Ofsted were all set to strike this week.

The PCS also says that action closed call centre services in the Land Registry last week. But the ballot results shows there is potential to do much more. PCS members have shown in ballots and on picket lines that they’re up for striking. Striking all together, for longer than a day, could hit the government much harder.

For details of PCS picket lines in March go to

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