16 October 2013: The day CWU postal members invaded the beaches of global capitalism

Today is a momentous day in the history of industrial relations between the 500-year-old (and now privatised) Royal Mail group, which is the British postal operator, and its postal workers, who are represented by the Communications Workers’ Union.

The result of a ballot by the CWU on industrial action was returned today, with a Yes vote of 78 per cent and a No vote of 22 per cent, the turn-out being 64 per cent.

The privatisation of the 500-year-old institution has been one of the most unpopular in recent times, both among employees of the business, reflected in a consultative ballot (96 per cent voting against it), and in the public outcry as expressed in various opinion polls. Even the Iron Lady, Thatcher, when she was privatising the whole of Britain in the 1980s wouldn’t privatise the “Queen’s head”; so it fell to a Liberal Democrat MP, Vince Cable, to hammer in the Tory neo-liberal nail.

The planning that has gone into the privatisation has been a disaster from the beginning. Since its flotation on the stock exchange, shares have soared, revealing that the business was massively undersold by about £1 billion. This means that the taxpayer has already lost that £1 billion in what can only be described as a bundled fire-sale. A tenth of the shares have been allocated to the Royal Mail staff as a “sweetener”; but given the result of the ballot, the employees are more concerned about their job security than about any bribe.

The chief executive of Royal Mail, Moya Green, claims that privatisation was necessary for outside investment; but it’s fast becoming obvious that the fire-sale was purely ideological, to line the pockets of faceless investors and the ruling class, with their bloodthirsty obsession with maximising profit.

To quote Dave Ward, deputy general secretary of the CWU, “We will not accept people maximising individual profit on the back of minimising the value, terms and conditions of postal workers.”

The privatisation of the business has, however, taken place, and that battle has been lost for now. However, the fight of postal workers to protect their terms and conditions in the face of that privatisation continues. There was an offer from the business of a legally binding agreement with a duration of three years. This, however, has been rejected and the CWU is demanding a longer duration, with better job security for its members. Any such deal will be unprecedented; and, given the result of the ballot, Royal Mail would be well advised to get involved in meaningful negotiations with the CWU or face the determination of its postal workers.

The TULF extends its solidarity and support to these workers and their families.