Royal Mail strikers rallying last December (Picture: Guy Smallman)

The poor deal between Royal Mail and the leaders of the postal workers’ CWU union remains in peril this week. Bosses throughout the business are on the offensive—and the union is trying to rein them in.

As Socialist Worker has highlighted previously, managers in delivery offices, are using “revisions”—changes to working practices—to attack conditions and undermine the union. 

And, in mail centres long-standing workers are being taken off their normal duties and transferred to other tasks, often without any discussion.

This week Socialist Worker spoke to Dave, a driver at a Parcel Force depot in Britain’s south west.

“Managers here are putting ever more pressure on us to take more parcels, and they are not abiding by the spirit of the agreements we have,” he said. 

“That pressure means more people are starting work early, working through their breaks and finishing late. 

“If you can’t make all your deliveries, that’s called “failing”. And if that happens often you run the risk of being put through a conduct meeting.”

And, says Dave, added pressure to deliver everything now comes from customers. “Obviously, we hate to let down people that are expecting a delivery,” he said. “But to make things work would mean doing lots of overtime every evening–and then you’d have no life.

“Knowing that customers can track your physical location adds to the stress. You might have worked past your shift and still have undelivered parcels – but the customer can see if you were near to their house when you finished. So customers then want you to explain what happened, and why their delivery was late.”

Dave says that Parcel Force is already going in the direction of the gig economy that the union says it is guarding against. “There’s been no investment in the business recently,” he said. “For example, our vehicles are all old and instead of replacing them the company is hiring them. That’s a really expensive way to go.

“I think what that is really about is preparation for the firm to start employing owner-drivers, like the other deliver firms do.”

On the deal between the company and the union, Dave is sceptical and says he will vote against it. “There are two key issues for me,” he says. “First, our sacked and suspended union reps should be back at work. Lots of them have been disciplined for petty things that could have been sorted out informally.

“Second, and this is crucial, the deal is worthless if the company won’t abide by it. I think that Simon Thompson—the former top boss that recently announced he is leaving the job—is still pulling the strings. I think he wants to force the deal down.

“Everyone knows this is a lousy deal – even those at the top of the union. They accept it because they think there is no better one to be had. But the financial crisis in Royal Mail Group has been made deliberately. International Distribution Service, which own us, are making money but are refusing to cross-subsidise the business.”

Dave points out that Royal Mail made £758 million in profits in 2022—which senior executives and shareholders pocketed through bonuses and dividends. And, he says the losses the company posted recently could easily have been avoided. It’s us that have made them that profit in previous years – and we are being offered crumbs.

“The purpose of the agreement between the union and the firm was to protect the way we work. And, if they already aren’t keeping to agreements, then there’s no guarantee that the bosses won’t come back after the deal is done and change everything radically.”

For details of the Postal Workers Say Vote No group go to bit.ly/VoteNoRM

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