On the Royal Mail strike picket line in Whitechapel, east London, last August (Picture: Guy Smallman)

The troubled deal between Royal Mail and CWU union leaders hit the rocks on Wednesday. After weeks of preparation, the union announced it was pulling its ballot on the offer that was due to start this week

It had already delayed voting once in an effort to win over union reps and members that said the deal was poor and should be thrown out.

The CWU said that management intimidation and unagreed changes to working practices— known as revisions—had made voting impossible. General secretary Dave Ward told members, “What has become clear is the environment we are attempting to deliver this agreement in remains toxic. Royal Mail Group has not stepped back from its attacks in the workplace.”

He went on to say the deal would be dead unless the company rein in its attacks. “Unless Royal Mail openly accepts that its culture of imposition must go, then the integrity of the negotiators agreement will be irreparably damaged,” he said. 

If the deal is already damaged beyond repair, that would mark a major setback for Ward’s strategy of engagement with the bosses and conciliation by the union.

Everyone working in Royal Mail businesses is furious with the way managers are on the rampage. But that’s not the real reason why the union has cancelled the ballot. Instead, it is the huge and growing number of postal workers that said they would vote against it.  

“Even if the vote had been to accept, the size of the no vote would have been massive. And they knew it,” says Rob, who works in a mail centre in the south west of England. “That’s why the ballot is off,” he told Socialist Worker.

“Add to that the anger on the shopfloor and you can see the strategy has failed. The wildcat strike in Glasgow deliveries last week is a sign of that.”

Rob says the union should stand up to Royal Mail bullies by immediately announcing new strike dates. “We should call a strike and another massive rally in London, just like the one we had in December last year,” he said.

“The union leaders should be thinking about ways to re-galvanise the members. People are angry but disorientated and uncertain, I’d say. That’s because there’s been no action for months.”

Pete, a postal worker in the south of England agrees. “We are now in a bad position because our leaders didn’t have a plan B for if the negotiations failed,” he said. “They think the members won’t fight for a better deal, so we have to settle for what we can get.

“But we will fight if the goals are clear—we want an end to attacks on our conditions, we don’t want a two-tier workforce and we want a shorter working week. And, instead of being locked into a race to the bottom with every other private operator, we want to force the government to renationalise Royal Mail.

“Those are things people would fight for. I’m not saying there should be no changes to our working practices, but we should be rewarded for any change made.”

Pete is right about there still being a willingness to fight. In January a whopping 96 percent of CWU members voted for strikes on a turnout of 77 percent. That huge vote should have led to a strategy of longer strikes.

Instead, the union used the vote as a negotiating tool—and called nothing. Management took that as a sign of weakness and launched new attacks.

Every day of delay in calling strikes now allows demoralisation to spread—and gives the company time to implement its back-breaking revision plans.

Bosses have told the union they want all their revisions in deliveries agreed and in place by October. That means there is no time to spare. The union must break from its broken strategy and instead return to tactics that made it strong. It must announce hard-hitting strikes.

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