A judge has granted Royal Mail a temporary injunction against planned industrial action by the CWU (Communication Workers’ Union) over pensions and conditions. CWU members had voted to support the action by over 89% in last week’s ballot, with a turnout in excess of 73%.
On the face of it, the decision looks like a victory for Royal Mail and a blow for the union – but the situation is not as it might be presented by the company, the government and the right-wing media.
The union’s press release expresses disappointment with the decision:
The CWU is extremely disappointed at the ruling and we have no doubt our members and representatives will feel the same way. Following 18 months of negotiations, including external mediation, the company’s actions are nothing more than a desperate delaying tactic from a board who are increasingly out of touch with the views of its workforce.
Legal proceedings and Royal Mail’s court room politics will not solve the company’s problems. The union has nothing to fear from mediation and unless there is significant movement from the company on a range of issues and a satisfactory agreement is concluded, the union will be calling further strike action once the mediation process has been completed. Furthermore, we will not allow Royal Mail to string out the process beyond the minimum required period.
CWU General Secretary Dave Ward said:
“The company are deluded if they believe their court room politics will resolve this dispute. Instead the company’s actions will have the complete opposite effect. Postal Workers’ attitude towards the company will harden and it makes us more determined than ever to defend our members pensions, jobs, service and achieve our objectives.
“Unless the company significantly shifts its position on a range of issues and we can quickly conclude a good agreement for our members then strike action is inevitable.
“We walked into the court today with a massive 90% yes vote for strike action – we walked out of the court today with a massive 90% vote for strike action. We want an agreement and will comply with the injunction to undertake further external mediation. But sooner rather than later Royal Mail Group will have to confront the harsh reality that they are completely out of touch with the views of its workforce.”
CWU Deputy General Secretary Terry Pullinger said “We saw today that Royal Mail Group would rather spend time, money and resources playing politics than engaging with this union to reach an agreement. Our members are square behind the CWU and from this moment we are putting Royal Mail on notice of further action should the mediation fail. Let me be clear – we will not stand by and see this once great institution run into the ground. Our members will stand up and save it by whatever means are necessary.
“We will use the mediation process to seek an agreement but also to galvanise support amongst our members and the public. Be in no doubt though, if Royal Mail Group are not serious about reaching an agreement we will not hesitate to call strike action immediately after the mediation period closes.”
However, a senior CWU official told the SKWAWKBOX that the decision was a ‘pyrrhic victory’ for Royal Mail, saying:
The most important thing from today’s judgment was that the judge maintained the validity of the strike ballot. Apart from that, all that’s really happened is that the judge told Royal Mail to get their arses to the negotiating table and gave them seven weeks to reach an agreement.
That’s what we’ve been trying to get them to do anyway, but Moya [Green, Royal Mail CEO] and others have kept failing to turn up to meetings. Now they have to do it – and if they don’t meet all the four pillars in seven weeks the injunction expires and our mandate for action is still in place.
And that’s before Christmas, which Royal Mail were desperate to avoid. It’s a pyrrhic victory.
The source also suggested that CWU General Secretary Dave Ward’s words about ‘hardened attitudes’ is likely to mean some form of ‘work to rule’ that will increase pressure on Royal Mail during negotiations, on top of the threat of industrial action afterward if no deal is reached.
CWU’s ‘four pillars‘, shown above, aim to protect workers’ pensions via an amended scheme that will guarantee sustainability, a reduction in the working week from 39 hours to 35 and the continued recognition of agreements between Royal Mail and the union – and to protect the service for customers by redesigning the mail and parcel ‘pipeline’. Full details are available here.
Union sources say that Royal Mail’s current plan is designed around the main aim of pleasing Amazon and would see mail arriving with recipients as late as six pm. The union proposes a redesign that will match the advantages of private operators and provide better service while safeguarding jobs and enabling growth.
If there is a strike over Christmas, it will be Royal Mail’s fault – share this so the public knows.
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