Workers' Weekly On-Line
Volume 49 Number 21, November 16, 2019 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE

Workers' Movement

Struggles in this Election Period

Postal and Rail Workers Fight to Defend their Rights and Safeguard Public Services

The general election campaign has exposed that neither was the election intended by the ruling elite to give the electorate the opportunity to decide the direction of society and the economy, nor have the working people been cajoled into divorcing the outcome of the election from their own concerns and the issues facing society.

The struggles of the postal and rail workers have served to emphasise that workers are striving to overcome the havoc which is being caused not only to their collective interests but to the general interests of the economy and society by the status quo and the neo-liberal agenda.

The crisis of credibility and legitimacy in which the so-called liberal democratic institutions are caught up is deeper than ever. This includes the form of government and the form of decision-making. Confidence in the government, the parties which form a cartel party system and the House of Commons are at an all-time low and confidence that an election will sort the problems out is also lacking.

Postal Workers Outraged at the Courts' Blocking of their Just Struggle

The High Court decision on November 13 to enforce Royal Mail's injunction to void the outcome of the ballot for strike action by the CWU communications workers demonstrates how the ruling elite in furtherance of the agenda of privatisation and neo-liberalism is going all out to block the voice of the workers. This in itself shows how the rich and powerful will simply tear up agreements arrived at through painstaking negotiations when it suits them. The workers are left with no resource which is peaceful and legal with which to challenge these dictates. Yet the workers are determined to find a way forward to defend their rights and interests, as well as to safeguard the future of public services.

This state of affairs also underlines the necessity for the workers to find a way forward in this election which enables them to block the coming to power once again of forces which represent the status quo, and to give rise to their empowerment so they can speak and act in their own name.

This can be said to be a central election issue. Working people lack the control over the laws which get passed by the cartel party system. This must be challenged. When workers have resisted privatisation and negotiated in good faith, they still face a situation where this outcome is not protected in law. The opposite is being shown to be the case. This cannot continue.

For Your Information

Royal Mail went to the High Court to prevent 110,000 communications workers from taking action, despite a 97% vote in favour of strike action on a 75% turnout. Even after the privatisation of Royal Mail in 2013, postal workers have continually fought to uphold the public service ethos in the face of the privatisation agenda, with agreed protections on pay and conditions, resistance to casualised work and zero-hours contracts, and for a reliable 6-day-week delivery service to every part of the country.

Specifically, this strike concerns Royal Mail's Universal Service Obligation, which upholds many of the agreements workers have fought for, and the "four pillars of agreement" which also ensures that workers are able to have an input in the future direction of the industry.

This has all been abandoned by the Royal Mail CEO Rico Back, who receives a £2.7 million pay packet, which he pays no tax on as he is based in Switzerland. While consistently refusing to consult with the CWU, Back has brought in reforms to deepen privatisation, reduce Royal Mail to a 5-day-week resulting in 20,000 job losses, and to weaken legal protections. Assisting him was Donald Muir, a management consultant whose firm once charged the NHS £935,000 in a single year for advice on pro-market reforms, and who were branded as "racketeers" as a result.

The High Court decision comes on the same day that Interserve Rail, describing itself as an engineering and facilities management company, called the British Transport Police to a redundancy meeting in an attempt to remove Steve Hedley of the RMT union, denying workers their right to union representation.

(with files from Counterfire)

RMT Accuses SWR of Deceit over Agreements on Guard Guarantee

The RMT has accused South Western Railway of deceit over agreements that were proposed and then withdrawn by the company over guaranteeing a guard on the train. The union is set to take 27 days of strike action in December over the fact that management reneged on agreements that had been made in principle and in good faith. The company are now trying to deny these agreements were ever made in a blatant display of contempt for previous negotiations and the workers involved.

RMT members will take action from December 2-11, from December 13-24 and from December 27 to January 1.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: "The strike action called is well and truly down to SWR's mismanagement and disingenuous position on the agreement and discussions.

"This dispute could easily be resolved if management started taking discussions seriously. SWR are once again showing their true colours, leading the union to believe we almost had a deal before pulling the rug from under our feet.

"We still have not received anything from the company and they have made no attempt whatsoever to reach an agreement. These strikes could have easily been avoided if the company had stuck to their agreements, corresponded with RMT and offered further discussions.

"I want to congratulate our members on their continued resolve in their fight for safety and the role of the guard on SWR. It is wholly down to the management side that the core issue of the safety critical competencies and the role of the guard has not been agreed.

"The union remains available for talks."



CWU's Voice of Defiance Rings Out around the Country

Communication Workers Union, November 13, 2019

Tonight, the CWU stands absolutely united in their anger at Royal Mail bosses and the high Court following today's "outrageous" decision to invalidate our overwhelming Yes vote and enormous turnout.

While our national leadership was speaking out in central London, our representatives from around the country spoke with one voice - a voice of steadfast defiance.

From the North East, divisional rep Steve Warren said: "This verdict today is the establishment sticking together to throw democracy in the bin."

And he slammed the false claims made by senior management in the case they put to the court, describing their slurs against the CWU as "sour grapes from people who have lost the support of the workforce.

"The 'Vote Yes' campaign was excellent - so good that other unions have been asking us for advice on their own campaigns," Steve added.

North Wales/North West divisional rep Ian Taylor also slated the company's manufactured claims, insisting that the union's "Vote Yes" campaign had been "brilliant."

Members would, he predicted, be "extremely angry" at the verdict of the Court, commenting: "from what I've heard so far, these sound like highly spurious reasons.

"I didn't hear of one single complaint from my division - so that's not one single complaint from about 20,000 members."

Down in London, Martin Walsh dubbed the judgement "a political decision". "Members will be very angry that management have taken their own workforce to court," pointed out the divisional rep for the capital, and he continued that, despite today's ruling, "the issues here remain the same and we will not accept what the business is trying to do to our members."

South Central Division rep Terry Jackson said that the court's decision was "a nonsense decision". "If people declare how they've voted in a general election, or in a referendum, that doesn't invalidate those polls does it?" he pointed out and added that, if the union does ballot members again, "the result will be the same".

"Here in the Midlands, our members will be furious at the decision of the court today," was the reaction of divisional rep Simon Edmunds. "I've never heard of such a ridiculous ruling before - has the right to strike been made illegal in this country?" he asks.

"Across Scotland and Northern Ireland, our members will be raging," says divisional rep Tam Dewar. "It's an anti-democratic verdict and the High Court has sided with Royal Mail. We will stay united behind our leadership that has never let us down."

And from down in the Anglia Division, Steve Butts describes this afternoon's pronouncement as "a dark day for working class people in this country". "But if we have to reballot then I'm confident our members will support us again," he added.

Pete Sinnott, from South East Division, says that his members will "no doubt be very disappointed - but we'll get over that disappointment and get on with the good fight". And regarding the allegations made against our union's campaign, Pete said: "I haven't heard one complaint from any of our approximately 11,000 members. It seems like the court is saying we can't even campaign."

South Wales/South West divisional rep Andy Nash was in Bristol Mail Centre when the judge's verdict was announced and he reports that "the unit reps and the area rep were incensed" when they heard it. "Among our members, even some of our members who were not that enthusiastic were annoyed by what the court decided," he added, predicting that "if we have to reballot, I reckon we'd get a bigger turnout and a bigger 'Yes' vote."


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