More junk from Royal Mail

A London Postal Worker calls for rejection of the CWU/Royal Mail agreement

Four months since the national postal strikes were called off, the leadership of the CWU and Royal Mail management have finally come up with the long-awaited agreement they were supposed to reach back in December. As if to show how hard at work they have been, the document stretches to 80 pages.

The good news is that maternity pay would increase from 18 to 26 weeks and paternity pay from one to two weeks. And ……. er that’s it. Everything else is tied up in strings linked to cutting jobs and increasing workloads, or at best, attempting to sweeten the pain.

Thus the media has been trumpeting the fact that we would get a 7% pay increase. Yes, but even the document says this would be over 3 years, with the 3rd increase open to renegotiation depending on circumstances (quite what might hold them to that is unclear). But, anyway, this increase is over 4 years if you take into account that we got no increase last year. Currently inflation is running at 3.5% and expected to rise, so 2% this year and 7% over 3 years are pay cuts.

The media also says we are to get £2,400 in lump sums. But hold on. £1,000 of that was due to us anyway under the sham Colleagueshare scheme. We would be paid that over 3 years if we agree to this package of proposals. So what was ours anyway now comes with strings. The other£1,400 is also spread over a couple of years and dependent on the “successful” introduction of new technology (read job losses and greater workloads).

A cut in the working week of 1 hour to 39 hours (union policy is 35 hours). But not for 3 years, and then not for everyone, with some getting (not even pro rata) pay increases instead.

In a new departure, differential (non-pensionable) payments are to be introduced for workers in different sectors of the business (deliveries, processing, distribution etc). For delivery workers this would be a £20.60 per week payment, replacing the “early start” payment and the “per item” payment for unaddressed Door to Door” (aka junk) mail. But hold on, many delivery workers around the country already get more than this between these two payments – another pay cut. And to add insult to injury the current limit of 3 items per household per week of junk mail is to be removed, with no new limit. Oh, and junk mail would also be delivered in the run up to Christmas, unlike at present. So, in exchange for delivering lots more stuff that no-one wants, many workers will take another pay cut.

There’s more – delivery workers would start and finish later, Saturday’s would be of the same length as Monday to Friday, and the current limit of 3½ to 4 hours on delivery would be lifted, with no new limit.

Although the document puts no figures on jobs to be lost or mail centres to close (why?), estimates of between 12,500 and 25,000 jobs to go over the 3 year period and 50% of mail centres to close have not been denied. There is a commitment (of sorts) to no compulsory redundancies, and to keeping a 3-1 ration of full-time to part-time workers. There are frequent references to consultation with the union over closures, but not agreement and several passages imply the national (and local?) union would be expected to help Royal Mail police the agreement.

Given its length, there are massive gaps in the document, so there is no joint appeal to the government to address the £10 billion deficit in the pension fund or the arrangement by which Royal Mail subsidises its competitors by charging them less to deliver their mail than it actually costs.

Benefits for the customer? On top of more junk mail your deliveries will also be later.

The document is not without its touches of humour, constantly referring to Royal Mail’s commitment to the safety of its employees and to good industrial relations. It’s just that none of us had noticed.

What the media hasn’t pointed out is that this is not a done deal until it has been agreed in a ballot of union members. Contrary to the expectations of some (including this reporter), the CWU has not gone for a snap ballot of the membership on the deal, rather they are arguing there are issues to be resolved first, with rumours of them even waiting until after the general election. What is true is that both management and the national union are desperate to get endorsement for this deal, management so they can get back to cutting costs with union consent and without strikes in response, and the union because they know that the alternative to this managed decline is not only industrial action well beyond what they were prepared to contemplate last year, but also a political strategy which challenges the idea that workers should pay and takes up the battle for the full restoration of the postal service to public ownership. And that is the challenge facing those of us arguing for rejection of this deal.

The danger is that many postal workers will be cynical that a leadership that negotiated this will not do any better if it is rejected, feeling they might as well take the money on offer, even if they are aware of the strings. At the time of writing, the good news is that the Branch Committee of Bristol CWU branch, one of the largest in the country, has voted unanimously to recommend rejection of the deal.

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