Many workers are accepting pay freezes, compulsory redundancies and even pay cuts. But the Communication Workers Union, owing to its previous well-supported dispute and adept negotiations, has formulated a proposal for Royal Mail workers. The CWU executive has endorsed a draft national agree-ment, “Business Transformation – 2010 and Beyond” and members will vote on whether to accept it.
Between now and 2012, some of the key elements of the agreement to be introduced are: basic pay will rise by a minimum of 6.9 per cent phased over 3 years; further guaranteed payments of £1,000 per full-time employee linked to transformation will accompany the phased introduction of change in the workplace; there will be weekly basic pay supplements; the CWU will play a full part in the introduction, deployment and review of change; the working week will reduce by one hour with no loss of pay; Royal Mail will remain a 75 per cent full-time industry; existing job security will be further enhanced and an “over-arching aim” will be to achieve transformation with no compulsory redundancies; no full-timer will be forced to move to part time and no part-time worker will be forced to move to full time; there will be improved maternity and paternity pay; and £400 when the agreement is ratified.
Result of dispute
This agreement, covering all aspects of the modernisation of Royal Mail, has been negotiated as a direct result of last year’s dispute. It will enable change to be managed via properly negotiated terms with full CWU involvement, improved job security and benefits for members. The agreement recognises the reality of automation, competition and the financial challenges facing the company – but it does so in a way that puts the interests of CWU members at its heart and also enables a future for all involved with the company. The union in its letter to members states: “There are positive aspects and there are changes that you may not like.” Members are urged to see the agreement in its totality.
The new automation will reduce jobs. But to help protect employment, door-to-door delivery will become part of a measured workload aimed to promote job retention, while a shorter working week will be introduced alongside a “real commitment” to increase new products and services. Some mail centre closures and relocations will happen, but there will be joint discussions on the future strategy and, to protect the people affected, the agreement raises th e cap on travel expenses. Also relocation terms will now be automatically available. Workload and performance standards are being reviewed and will be incorporated into agreed revision procedures to ensure “fair workload alongside safer working practices and modern equipment”.
Here is palpable proof that collective action, even in difficult circumstances, can ensure workers retain elements of control over salaries, conditions, job prospects and the quality of an essential public service. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Far from accepting daft notions that we are powerless, the postal workers have shown clearly that workers are still a force to be reckoned with.