Labour conference agrees to re-nationalise Royal

The Labour Party conference today (Wednesday) unanimously agreed a motion continuing the opposition to a sale of Royal Mail and went further by unanimously agreeing the re-nationalisation of the postal service under a Labour government.

CWU general secretary Billy Hayes said he was delighted with the decision. “I strongly welcome the decision of Labour conference to both continue opposition to the sale and to re-nationalise Royal Mail if it has been sold by the current government.

“A postal worker will deliver to every address in the UK today, six days a week, every week of the year. Royal Mail is part of the fabric of a One Nation society.”

The decision by the Labour Party conference comes after the government announced their intention to float the public service as it approaches its 500th birthday.

“Labour’s conference decision should raise a warning flag for potential investors” said Billy, adding: “Poll after poll has shown public opposition to the sale, and with the company making substantial profits, there is no economic argument for the sale.

“There is still time for this government to listen to the public, consumers and the businesses and user groups who have campaigned under the Save Our Royal Mail banner and drop this politically dogma driven sale” concluded Billy.

For Billy’s full speech in moving contemporary motion 8 visit his blog.

Labour shadow minister Ian Murray announced this week that the Labour Party will force another vote in the Commons on the privatisation of Royal Mail in the coming weeks.

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CWU serves Industrial Action notice

The Communication Workers Union has today (Friday) served formal legal notice to Royal Mail of the intention to ballot members for strike action. Ballot papers will go out on Friday 27 September, and the ballot will close and the result announced on Wednesday 16 October. If there is a yes vote, the earliest that strike action could take place would be 23 October.

This is the first national strike ballot in Royal Mail since 2009 and will affect 115,000 postal workers in Royal Mail and Parcelforce (but not the Post Office, which is a separate company). The dispute is over pay, pensions and the impact of privatisation on job security, terms and conditions.

Dave Ward, CWU deputy general secretary said: “The government’s privatisation agenda has destabilised everything. Postal workers are rightly concerned about their future so we want a legally-binding agreement on protections for jobs, terms and conditions – regardless of who owns the company. We don’t want a race to the bottom in the postal industry where companies compete on poverty pay, few employment rights and poor services simply to maximise payouts to wealthy shareholders. Without an agreement strikes are inevitable.”

“Royal Mail and Parcelforce workers deserve a fair pay rise and one that is not attached to unacceptable strings that include changes to pensions and a no-strike deal. The company made £403 million profit last year so it’s not about affordability – especially when the government says the company would pay out £133 million to shareholders next year if privatised.

“We want the company to recognise its main asset – its workers – who literally deliver the success of the business. This union still wants an agreement and we are hoping this strike ballot will focus the minds of Royal Mail and bring us to a legally binding deal that will protect the interests of postal workers for the long-term foreseeable future.”

Legal Protections

Regardless of who owns the company, postal workers need protections for their terms and conditions. The union is determined to achieve a ground-breaking agreement that provides legally binding protections for terms and conditions for the foreseeable future and ensures any changes are negotiated with CWU.

Dave Ward said: “Attacks on terms and conditions and the threat of new employment models in a potential race to the bottom with competitors are a real risk for postal workers and we intend to achieve legally binding protections that mean the future of postal workers jobs are secure and Royal Mail continues to set the benchmark for pay and conditions in the postal industry.”

Pay and conditions

CWU has already rejected a below-inflation pay offer for 2013 which was linked to accepting major pension changes and a no strike deal. CWU is demanding a straightforward, above inflation, no-strings pay deal which 99% of workers voted for in a ballot in June.

Dave Ward said: “Royal Mail continues to prepare for privatisation with relentless rounds of budget cuts and there is no understanding that the pace of change can really only be led by how hard people can work. Postal workers are being driven to absorb absences, carry increasing amounts of mail and work harder than is possible in many cases. We have to change that culture and establish a new consensus on what constitutes a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay.”

Pensions

Royal Mail has created more concern for its staff by announcing new problems with its pension scheme. Despite the government taking control of the assets in 2012 to pave the way for privatisation, the company wants to use remaining assets to reduce its own contributions. The company completed a formal consultation in August and the union is calling for an agreed process to protect members’ benefits.

“There is a great hypocrisy in the way the scheme is being managed by Royal Mail” said Dave Ward. “The company wants to keep its contribution rate to 17% whilst maintaining managers’ benefits at 40%. They can afford higher contributions to protect postal workers’ benefits.”

For more information and access to a range of resources visit Royal Mail strike ballot.

Follow @CWUnews on Twitter for live updates and tag your comments with #voteYES.

Industrial Action Ballot TimeTable

Dear Colleague

National Industrial Action Ballot (Royal Mail Group including Parcelforce)

At last weeks National Briefing we indicated that there may be some slippage on the Industrial Action timetable.  We can now advise that a new timetable has been agreed as follows:

–         Notice served on the 20th September 2013

–         Ballot opens on the 27th September 2013

–         Ballot closes Wednesday 16th October 2013

It is essential that every single CWU Representative now plays a full part in maximising the yes vote in the coming weeks.

Any enquiries on the above LTB should be addressed to the DGS (P) Department.

Reps Briefing: Strike Ballot

CWU representatives from workplaces across the UK have filled a hall at Birmingham’s ICC conference centre this morning (Thursday) as they prepare for the forthcoming national strike ballot.

The meeting opened with a short presentation from Royal Mail CEO Moya Greene (pictured).

Following this, representatives will hear from the union’s general secretary, Billy Hayes and deputy general secretary, Dave Ward on securing a Yes vote in the forthcoming strike ballot.

“Reps are geared up to take on Royal Mail to achieve a fair, no-strings attached pay rise; oppose proposed changes to their pensions; and seek legal assurances on terms and conditions to deal with the impact of any privatisation,” explained Dave Ward from the briefing.

“We’ve got a lot of hard work ahead of us but judging from the level of enthusiasm and support in this packed hall, we’re confident our members will return a yes vote in this crucial ballot.”

LOCAL REPRESENTATIVES FORUM – BIRMINGHAM ICC

THURSDAY 12th SEPTEMBER 2013

CWU Local Representatives from across the country gathered in Birmingham to discuss issues relating to the proposed privatisation of Royal Mail and the pending Official Industrial Action Ballot.

Along with CWU General Secretary Billy Hayes and CWU Deputy General Secretary (Postal) Dave Ward, Royal Mail Chief Executive Moya Greene also addressed the Forum.

The Forum began just hours after the official announcement regarding the floatation of Royal Mail and Dave Ward wasted no time in commenting on the announcement. “No Government announcement changes the fact that we will be going to an Industrial Action ballot to protect our members. All the announcement does is make it more important to stand together and return a massive yes vote in the ballot”.

Dave continued “There is still no dates or details of the sale, but be under no illusion, whoever owns the company this union will fight to protect the terms and conditions and keep them the best they can be. The CWU is bigger than any plans for privatisation. The CWU is here for the long haul. The CWU representatives like those here today have one big job – go and deliver a resounding yes vote in this ballot”.

The applause for Dave Ward’s inspiring speech was short lived as Moya Greene was then asked to address the Forum; and was greeted with jeers and a chorus of “Royal Mail, not for sale!”. The Royal Mail CEO gave a brief speech full of rhetoric and cliché similar to the material that has arrived on the doorsteps of CWU members recently. The monotonous speech was soon interrupted by laughter and more jeering as the statement “I don’t understand why we should be headed for a dispute” was made by the CEO.

Moya Greene went on to say that “We need to make good of privatisation” and also gave a hint that negotiations were not closed on what was already, in her opinion, a ‘good’ pay offer.

Questions from the floor to the Royal Mail boss included issues of bullying & harassment, the uncertainty of the privatisation, the debacle of the proposed pension changes and the future strategy of the company. On bullying & harassment, Moya Greene stated that “most cases involve member against member” which was poorly received on the floor and led to ‘time running out’ on the question and answer session and, perhaps ironically, a ‘comfort break’ was called for.

Dave Ward was quick to return to the rostrum as the second session began and defend comments made by Moya Greene. The Forum was informed that no deal would include a ‘no strike clause’ and that a better pay deal, inclusive of the benefits and minus the ‘strings’ – as demanded in the Consultative Ballot – would be reached by the union and employer. “Our members deserve better pay, living wage pay, and proper incentives including a replacement for ColleagueShare which the company stole from our members” Dave Ward claimed. “Let me also be clear that a boycott of competitors mail is also not out of the question. We could not take any action on the back of the Consultative Ballot, but we will be exploring every tactic in beating the threat to this industry and this union’s members” he added.

The momentum with Dave Ward grew and he outlined exactly what the CWU was striving for in addition to the demands of the Consultative Ballot and relied on its Reps to ensure members were aware of:

Legally binding protections
No break-up of the company; ParcelForce, Mail Centre sales etc
No outsourcing/franchising of delivery rounds
Avoidance of ‘race to the bottom’ of terms and conditions similar to TNT
No Zero-Hour contracts or 2-Tier workforce

Billy Hayes added to Dave Ward’s comments by stating that “We have fought privatisation for 21 years. Moya Greene, like Leighton and Crozier did, claims that things were terrible when she arrived and that she has improved them. We all know the improvements have been made by you (Reps) and the members”. He added that the company is profitable and not a ‘basket-case’ which is why there will be interest in buying it – from capitalist vultures not “businessmen and women who feel sorry for their postie”. Billy also committed to putting pressure on the Labour Party at its Conference with a motion that calls for renationalisation should the sale go ahead “Labour needs to start acting as an opposition, rest assured we will be taking a firm stance at Conference and we invite you to attend”,

Both Dave and Billy emphasised the importance of a YES vote in the upcoming ballot. All Reps present were challenged to ‘go and deliver’ the return and stated that this was a ‘defining moment’ in the history of Royal Mail, the industry and the union. Both were confident of winning the dispute.

It is now down to the reps and the membership to take the next step and return the YES vote needed to save the future of our terms and conditions at work.

There will be Gate Meetings and correspondence from Reps regarding the ballot. If you require any further information, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Carl Harper
Sectional Secretary
CWU Eastern 5
PMC Deliveries

CWU on Royal Mail IPO announcement

The government has today (Thursday) announced that it is pressing ahead with plans to privatise Royal Mail at the very same time that 125,000 postal workers are voting on strike action.

CWU says the plans to sell are a betrayal of the British public – 70% of whom are against privatisation according to a Sunday Times poll at the weekend.

The announcement this morning said an initial public offering (IPO) is “expected to take place in the coming weeks”.

Billy Hayes, CWU general secretary, said: “This isn’t about what’s best for the Royal Mail, it’s about vested interests of government ministers’ mates in the City. Privatisation is the worst way to access to capital as it’s more expensive than borrowing under public ownership. There’s no competition with money for schools and hospitals as the government would have you believe – look at Network Rail which has borrowed billions on private markets at cheaper rates under an arrangement which doesn’t affect public debt. This is simply about dogma from old fashioned Tories wedded to privatisation.

“We remain convinced that privatisation is the wrong decision for Royal Mail. It would be bad for customers, bad for staff and bad for the industry. Privatisation would put jobs and services at risk and lead to higher prices for customers. We’ve seen it happen time and again in other industries.

“We’re taking this to Labour Party Conference and we want a commitment that a Labour government would renationalise Royal Mail if privatised. Privatisation is an old-fashioned idea and a breach of the public’s trust. It would destroy a centuries-old public service.”

Dave Ward, CWU deputy general secretary, said: “Today’s announcement gives us little new information. Everyone knew the government’s intention to float Royal Mail this financial year but we’re surprised they’ve chosen to start this process at the very time we are balloting our members for strike action. This could put investors off.

“We’re pressing ahead with our ballot 125,000 postal workers and we will continue to fight privatisation and the potential impact of a sale on jobs, terms and conditions. CWU is here for the long-haul. Any owner will have to deal with issues in the industry and take the workforce with them.
“Investors should take note of public opinion too – 70% of the public are against privatisation according to the latest poll this weekend.”

The ballot will be the first national strike ballot since 2009. Ballot papers are due to go out to 125,000 Royal Mail and Parcelforce (but not Post Office) workers on 20 September with a result to be announced on 3 October. If there was a yes vote, the union would then be able to give 7 days’ notice for strike action, with the earliest strike action possible from 10 October.

Around 1,500 reps from across Royal Mail are meeting in the ICC in Birmingham today for a CWU-called meeting.

Day 4 TUC 2013: Trade unions won’t be gagged

“This Bill is about state control of free trade unions” Tony Kearns told Congress when seconding emergency motion 5 on the government’s controversial Lobbying Bill. Accusing the Government of “messing up big time”, Tony said there was “no evidence that the measures in the Bill are needed.” Yesterday, Lib Dem MPs refused to vote for any amendments to the Bill, prompting Tony to challenge: “Nick Clegg needs to get a dictionary and look up what the words ‘Liberal’ and ‘Democrat’ mean. This Bill is about gagging democratic debate and saying that politics is not for ordinary people. It’s about trying to get the trade union movement to shut up. But we won’t be shut up.”

In moving the motion, James Anderson from Unison said: “These rotten Tories – yellow and blue – have turned a scandal about their rich lobbying mates into an attack on democracy.” He pointed out how the Bill had brought together “the widest coalition imaginable, from the Countryside Alliance to Greenpeace” against the Bill. “Such an illiberal attack is being supported by the Lib Dems. We need to not water down this Bill but defeat it.”

Congress unanimously passed the motion.

Today (Wednesday) is the final day of TUC 2013.

Door-to-door growth secures jobs

Ongoing growth in unaddressed mail volumes will allow Royal Mail to capture more of this expanding market and protect jobs, CWU outdoor secretary Bob Gibson said yesterday (Tuesday).

In an upbeat message to members, Bob explained that the previous limit of six ‘door-to-door’ items per walk, per week will rise to seven in some areas of the country as the company continues its drive to increase its share of this important revenue stream.

Back in 2010, the union agreed to remove the then three-item cap on these products as part of the Business Transformation 2010 agreement.

“The union agreed to this change as we could see that this was a potential growth area and, had we maintained the cap, then this work would have been lost to competitor companies such as TNT,” Bob pointed out.

“The agreed switch from a per-item, piecework-type payment system to a universal, weekly payment went hand-in-hand with placing door-to-door work into general workload – changes which were also part of the 2010 agreement.”

The CWU’s position appears to have been vindicated by recent market reports showing this activity up by both volume and expenditure on a year-on-year basis. A UK study by the Direct Marketing Association reports 3.5 per cent (volume) and 3.9 per cent (expenditure) growth respectively. Read the full report here: UK door drop industry growth returns, report reveals.

And a continent-wide analysis by the European Letterbox Marketing Association (ELMA) reported an overall volume rise of 2.3 per cent and placed the UK in fifth place among the 22 countries surveyed. Read the full report here: Unaddressed marketing mail rebounding from recession, says study.

According to the ELMA study, the average European household receives 12 of these items per week – compared to a UK figure of five.

“It’s clear this is a growing area – and one set to increase further,” said Bob, adding: “The Quality of Service provided to current Door to Door customers by our members continues to improve and deliver a powerful message about the value of the service provided and the response customers can expect to their advertisements.”

Read Bob’s full message to members, along with detailed advice in LTB 604/13 Door 2 Door growth – 7 items per week

Day 3 TUC 2013: Congress backs CWU motion against privatisation

Dave Ward gave a fiery speech at TUC Congress this morning seeking support for a motion against privatisation of Royal Mail.

“The government has announced its intention to privatise Royal Mail. But we had our own announcement last week: we will be balloting our members for strike action” said Dave, to loud applause in the conference hall.

“What’s frustrating about the debate on the future of postal services is that we’re against change. But we’re not through all the pain of change just to hand it over to private investors – not when the fortunes of the company have been improved, literally delivered on the backs of our members.”

Dave questioned the lack of vision held by politicians for Royal Mail and called for more action from the Labour Party. “Our members want to see Labour defending this public service” he said.

Dave’s closing message was to the City. “We have a warning for investors – CWU will fight to protect UK postal services. Hands off our Royal Mail.”

Seconding the motion was Unite assistant general secretary Tony Burke, who represents 8,000 Royal Mail managers. He told TUC delegates: “It is clear; the government is motivated by the chance to make a quick buck – a chance to sell off one of our prized assets at a massive cost to the taxpayer.

“It is an attempt to raise cash to spare the blushes of the chancellor and prime minister and their failing economic plan. Even Thatcher saw it as a step too far; Tories see votes going down the pan in their constituencies as people say “No to the sell off”.

The motion was passed unanimously by delegates.

Read motion 44 in full.

Supporting motion 24 on fair pay for young workers, CWU’s Tony Kearns called it “the most important debate at Congress.”

Tony outlined the challenges faced by young people, with high youth unemployment, low wages and the fact that on average you now have to be 35 before you can save up enough for a deposit on a house. “The most damning fact” said Tony, “is that this generation of young people is going to be the first since the war to be poorer than the generation before.”

He appealed to Congress not to stand shoulder to shoulder with young workers, but to “put young workers at the front and stand behind them.”

This motion drew a dynamic range of speakers – mostly young people speaking from direct experience of low wages, exploitation and limited opportunities – and was voted through by delegates.

Labour leader Ed Miliband addressed Congress in the session before lunch. Read his speech in full.

Following his speech Ed Miliband took a number of questions. The first of these came from a group of young workers. CWU Youth chair Chris Hand was third to ask the Leader of the Opposition a question, and his directly related to union members: “what will the next Labour government do to encourage young people to understand and join trade unions?”

In response, Mr Miliband affirmed the importance of trade unions and the need to recruit young people into membership. “We need to show what trade unions do for people” he said. He also criticised the attempts of David Cameron to paint unions as ‘the enemy within’, saying: “I’m not going to let him get away with putting stigma on trade unions.”

Afternoon session

CWU delegate Bob McGuire, a rep from the North East, supported a motion about having an inquiry into the police action at Orgreave during the miners’ strike. He spoke of the fear felt by families living in villages around Durham who had their lives turned upside down; about the streets being lined with riot police from the Metropolitan Police Force. The motion was passed by Congress.

Amarajite Singh, CWU delegate from Cardiff, spoke on a motion about trades union councils, arguing the point that a trades union council delegate should be allowed to attend TUC Congress and move their motion. AJ argued that this would be consistent with what happens with representatives of other union bodies, such as TUC Women’s Committee. The motion was carried by Congress.

Tony Sneddon, CWU delegate from Scotland and member of the CWU Disability Advisory Committee, spoke on a motion about defending the Welfare State and the rights of disabled people. He outlined the disproportionate effects that cuts to welfare will have on the disabled and the need to avoid this. He received a warm round of applause from Congress when he revealed he is one of thousands of Post Office workers who have taken 11 rounds of strike action in the current dispute over pay, jobs and closures. The motion was carried.

Day 2 TUC 2013: Government told ‘Hands off Royal Mail’

In a rousing speech to Congress, TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady told the government: “hands off our Royal Mail.” Describing the plans as “the latest sell-off of the family silver” she called the move “stupid and senseless”. Her comments were met with cheers from the CWU delegation and spontaneous applause from across the packed floor of the conference centre.

It was Frances’ first speech as general secretary and one which sent clear and challenging messages to government on its failing economic policy, attacks on trade union freedoms and attempts to restrict political campaigning and democracy.

“This government is intent on dividing Britain – those in work and those out, those on benefits and those not, and the south from those in the so-called ‘desolate north’,” she told Congress.

Giving a damning account of the government’s record on the economy, she called the current system “capitalism on crack cocaine” before saying “but it wasn’t always this way.” She asked where the ‘caring’ Conservative party of previous years had gone, the one in which John Major wanted to see a ‘classless society’ and which Theresa May warned of becoming ‘the nasty party’. Contrasting this with record youth unemployment, divisive policies and sending immigration advertising vans into multi-racial communities with a slogan last used by the National Front, Frances gave a damning view of government actions.

Billy pointed out the role for public spending in terms of reducing unemployment and stimulating an upturn in GDP. He was also scathing of plans for a “fire sale of national assets through privatisation”, listing not only Royal Mail, but the Probation Service, Student Loans Company and our controlling share in RBS and Lloyds.

She drew laughter and applause from delegates when she turned to the often used description of government-PR man Linton Crosby as ‘the Wizard of Oz’. “What does this make Cameron, Clegg and Osborne then?” she asked. They were the scarecrow, the tin man and the lion: “no brain, no heart and no courage.”

Frances was stinging in her attack on government attempts to restrict trade union freedoms. Pointing out that unions already report their membership figures annually, she explained that trade unions have more than ten times the members of all political parties put together. “It could be more, we really don’t know because they don’t publish their figures – in fact the Tories have refused to publish them” she said. Frances then sent a direct message to the Prime Minister: “Before he starts lecturing us on transparency, I challenge David Cameron to publish his membership figures.” Frances also condemned the ‘gagging bill’ (Lobbying and Trade Union Admin Bill) currently going through parliament, calling it “anti-democratic and dangerous.”

Frances announced four policy aspirations from the TUC: full employment – to be paid for by fair taxation; new council housing; new wages councils to guarantee fair pay; and an NHS “once again a public service run for people not for profit.” To the last pledge she added a call for care for the elderly to be brought into public ownership and for proper childcare to also be prioritised.

The eloquent yet fiery speech covered key contemporary issues facing UK industries, society and the trade union movement. It sent clear and balanced messages to the government and was a rallying call for better rights for ordinary people. Congress delegates got to their feet to give Frances O’Grady a lengthy standing ovation when she completed her address.

Read Frances’s speech in full.

CWU general secretary Billy Hayes moved a heavyweight composite motion on economic policy on Monday afternoon, calling for investment not cuts as a solution to stagnation and unemployment.

“The first period of Osborne’s economics has been a failure” he told Congress. “The economy is still nearly 3% smaller than it was in 2008 when the recession first hit; private investors are still on strike. Had the government continued to wait for them, we would still be in recession” he said.

“We don’t care who it is advocating austerity, it doesn’t inspire” he warned. “However, one cut that could be usefully made is in military spending” he offered, explaining: “We are are the seventh largest economy in the world but we have the fourth largest budget in military spending. If we simply made military spending priportionate to our economy we would have a saving of £14 billion a year available for productive investment.”

The motion was seconded by the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy and drew speakers in support from many unions. It was carried in a vote by Congress.

Read Billy’s speech and the wording of the motion in full on Billy’s blog.

Delegates watched this video charting the success of the TUC’s recent Austerity Uncovered bus tour. See for yourself what they found out about the effect the Government’s cuts are having on ordinary working people around the country and look out for the CWU’s giant inflatable post box!