With intransigent employers refusing to budge, CWU members at Royal Mail are continuing their strike action. And on every picket line, there is a determination to beat the bosses.
The ongoing dispute with Royal Mail is over pay and conditions, following an imposed 2% pay offer, at a time when inflation is above 10% and rising.
The bosses are also looking to rip up workers’ terms and conditions, under the guise of so-called ‘modernisation’. Far from improving the postal service, however, these attacks only serve to extract more profits from workers.
Post Office workers came out on strike for the sixth time this year on 28 September. This was followed by another walkout at Royal Mail on 30 September, and then a momentous day of coordinated action with other unions on 1 October.
115,000 CWU members were joined by over 40,000 rail workers in the RMT, ASLEF, TSSA, and Unite, making this the biggest day of coordinated strike action since the public sector pensions dispute in November 2011.
These strikes were accompanied by rallies and demonstrations across the country, with local activists joining picket lines in solidarity, and protesting against the escalating cost-of-living crisis.
In response to this growing strikewave, Royal Mail bosses have utilised new laws – introduced by their Tory pals in government – to hire agency workers.
The aim is to break the strike by replacing unionised workers with scab labour.
The bosses clearly have no genuine interest in negotiations. Instead, they are attempting to sit out the strikes, counting that they will lose steam as time goes on.
Faced with this stubborn refusal from Royal Mail, the CWU has announced 19 days of strike action over the next two months, starting on 13 October.
These dates – a mixture of single strike days and rolling action across Royal Mail’s network – will cover peak mail periods such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
This is a significant show of strength, and a welcome escalation.
Posties at Royal Mail will also be joined by cleaners, maintenance engineers, and related admin staff, who on 27 September returned a 94% vote in favour of industrial action over pay and conditions.
Additionally, 40,000 workers at BT Group – also organised in the CWU – have escalated their dispute, announcing four additional days of strike action in October.
This time they’ll be joined by hundreds of 999 operators. These supposedly ‘unorganisable’ call-centre staff have shown that no group of workers is unreachable by the unions, as the crisis deepens and new layers enter into struggle.
The bosses at both BT and Royal Mail have made their stance perfectly clear. They won’t provide a penny more to workers unless forced to. They will bitterly resist every concession tooth and nail.
Once the working class is organised and mobilised, however, there is no force on earth that can stop them.
The only way forward is through the nationalisation of both companies, alongside the rest of the monopolies in the delivery and telecoms industries.
These big businesses should be taken into public ownership, without any compensation to their fat-cat owners, and placed under the democratic control of the working class.
To fight for such a programme, the CWU and other unions must link up their struggles.
Recent weeks have already seen the start of coordinated strike action. This must now be generalised into a mass campaign of rolling, united action across the whole trade union movement, with bold socialist demands at its core, and with the aim of bringing down this decrepit Tory government.
Whatever happens, this winter will be a bitter showdown. The bosses have thrown down the gauntlet. And the CWU and other unions have risen to the challenge. Now they must join forces to finish the fight.