The Star talks to postal workers’ union CWU about how they are taking the fight for posties’ pay – and the future of the service – to the Tories
AS THE Conservative Party holds its conference in Manchester this week, it will be welcomed by a wave of anti-austerity protests. Today, the Communication Workers Union (CWU) is holding a major rally for its People’s Post campaign.
In a break from convention around party conferences, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn will address a crowd of thousands at the rally, alongside the CWU general secretary Dave Ward and deputy general secretary Terry Pullinger.
The People’s Post campaign is highlighting the threat to postal workers’ terms and conditions and to Britain’s daily deliveries from competition, privatisation and aggressive regulation. In the past year thousands of workers have lost their jobs with the collapse of Whistl and CityLink and the CWU is calling for a fundamental change in the approach to the industry.
Since liberalisation of the postal market started in 2003 successive regulators have sought to promote competition against Royal Mail. Most recently this has been led by Ofcom allowing competitors to cherry-pick the most profitable parts of the market. This was allowed despite fears this would undermine the financial stability of the national delivery service which Royal Mail is obliged to provide.
The CWU also accuses Ofcom of firing the starting gun on a race to the bottom on workers’ terms and conditions, with Whistl in particular relying on low-paying insecure employment such as zero-hours contracts.
The regulator has also criticised the union’s agreement with Royal Mail, which rules out insecure employment models, as being a barrier to efficiency and called on the company to adopt more “flexible” working practices for staff.
Ward believes the People’s Post campaign fits into the broader anti-austerity protests happening this week: “With the recession, government spending cuts and the Trade Union Bill, we are seeing a fundamental shift in the balance of forces in society away from working people,” he said.
“The People’s Post campaign is our union standing up for a society and postal services being run for the millions — not the millionaires.”
Alongside Corbyn, tonight’s CWU rally will feature author and commentator Owen Jones, Daily Mirror journalist Kevin Maguire and Green Party leader Natalie Bennett. Taking place at Manchester Cathedral, over 5,000 tickets for the event have already been booked in a sign of a growing opposition to the Tory agenda. This is the first in a series of regional events the union is planning for its campaign.
“Since we began the People’s Post campaign in the summer it has been winning more and more support,” Ward said.
“Our key themes of defending daily deliveries and protecting postal workers’ rights are striking a chord with people right across our movement and beyond.”
The campaign won full support from trade unionists at the recent TUC Congress in Brighton and has been backed by the new Labour leader and his deputy, Tom Watson.
Discussing the campaign at the TUC Congress, Pullinger said that the national daily delivery service — known as the universal service — was “something special” and “one of the greatest inventions of our social history which is still relevant after 400 years.
“No other provider can claim that they totally connect every single address in this country six days a week, guaranteed at a uniform price. The universal service obligation (USO) doesn’t discriminate. Whoever you are, and wherever you are, you’re entitled to receive daily delivery at your home,” he said, adding that this universal ethos “stands up to free-market ideology. “We’re protecting the legacy of the USO — it’s highly valued and precious to everybody.”
The People’s Post public meeting is at 7pm today at Manchester Cathedral, Victoria Street. Tickets are free but must be booked at bit.ly/1M3qVnV.
The People’s Post is calling for:
Legal protection of daily deliveries: Unfair competition has been imposed on the postal industry by the regulator, which has encouraged competitor companies to cherry-pick the most profitable parts of the operation and has placed daily deliveries in jeopardy. The People’s Post campaign calls for daily deliveries to be enshrined in legislation, along with guaranteed affordability, quality of service standard and meaningful consumer protection rights.
Fair pay and secure jobs for all workers: The strength and organisation of the CWU at workplaces nationwide has maintained postal workers’ pay, terms and conditions at a good standard. But outside of core CWU companies, particularly in private parcels and logistics companies, insecure employment, zero-hours contracts and poverty pay are rife. People’s Post is a fight for fair pay, secure jobs, and strong union organisation right across the sector. We say: “End the race to the bottom — bring all workers in our industry up to Royal Mail standards.”
People’s power for the People’s Post: The postal service exists to serve the people of Britain: residents, local businesses, and other vital parts of our communities. But regulation, privatisation and unfair competition have only acted for big business, not for the people. We want to see new and innovative products and services that meet communities’ needs, and genuine opportunities for local people to make suggestions and have a say.
A workers’ share trust: WE WANT the establishment of a workers’ trust to give employees a meaningful collective voice in the business. The existing trust that employee shares have been placed in does not meet those aspirations. It is vital to ensure there is real input from the people who deliver the postal service.