Motion 50: Enforcing the Agenda for Growth Agreement
The following Motion was carried at last year’s Annual Conference:
“Conference notes the consistent and often deliberate failure of Royal Mail and Parcelforce to adopt the practices and spirit of the Agenda for Growth, Stability and Long Term Success Agreement, in particular, but not limited to, recruitment and resourcing, day to day operations and working relationships with managers and CWU Representatives.
By refusing to operate within the terms and scope of Agenda for Growth Agreement and/or other national agreements, Royal Mail and Parcelforce are causing our members severe stress and ill health in the workplace, failing to secure industrial stability, long term growth and efficiency in operations, and above all, may be, acting illegally.
The Postal Executive is therefore instructed to launch a legal challenge against Royal Mail Group for breaching the terms of the legally binding contract Royal Mail Group has with the CWU starting with a test case at either Unit or Area level to demonstrate the potential success and set a precedent ahead of a national claim.
The Postal Executive is instructed accordingly.”
The Postal Executive subsequently endorsed a report from the DGS(P) on how best to progress the terms of the motion and I was asked to lead on the issue.
Advice has been sought which reaffirms earlier legal advice the Union received on enforcing the Agenda for Growth Agreement. This distinguishes between:
1) The protections that can be enforced directly by applying to the court for an injunction. These relate to:
• Royal Mail’s obligation to remain an end to end service provider;
• prohibition against outsourcing or selling off parts of the business;
• prohibition against franchising and use of zero hours contracts;
• worsening existing terms and conditions without the Union’s agreement;
• continued recognition of the CWU.
If the Union believes that the company are in breach of any of these terms, or is about to breach them, the remedy is to apply to the court for an injunction.
2)The protections that have to go through the legally binding Achieving Local Agreements process which cover a range of issues relating essentially to the maintenance of good industrial relations. In terms of the Achieving Local Agreements process, a number of things should be noted:
• the most important provision of the Achieving Local Agreements process is the duty to maintain the status quo until the dispute has gone through the procedure;
• it is easier to get a court order to stop the employer doing something than to make them take positive action;
• the Union will be expected to give the company an opportunity to get its house in order before going to court so we would need to write to royal Mail at national level demanding corrective action be taken within a specified period before going to court.
Clearly, if the union is to pursue any “test cases” these will have to be chosen carefully.
Advice suggests that we would need to identify specific instances where Royal Mail:
• proposes to employ a temporary or casual employee where there is no genuine short-term need;
• proposes to employ agency staff to cover work which could be covered by additional hours by existing staff;
• proposes to employ a temporary employee on a fixed-term contract exceeding 2 years without the Union’s agreement;
• refuses to convert temporary employment to permanent where there is no good reason for refusing;
• refuses to increase part-time employees’ hours to fit actual hours of work, where there is no good reason for refusing.
Of these the refusal to convert a temporary post to permanent and a refusal to increase part-timers’ hours are more difficult bearing in mind that it is easier to obtain an order to stop something happening rather than make something positive happen.
If we are able to identify a suitable test case, the process to start the case is that the Area Rep should trigger the Achieving Local Agreements process straight away by serving formal notice of the disagreement and attempting to agree a statement of what the disagreement is about with his or her opposite number.
At the same time the Area Rep should specify clearly what the current Agreements say and tell the Manager that he or she is required to maintain the status quo until the disagreement has been resolved. If the Manager will not do so, the Area Rep should refer the dispute straight away to the Divisional Rep who should make the same point to his or her opposite number. If there is still a failure to commit to maintain the status quo a formal letter threatening to take the issue to the court should be sent.
It is not sufficient to refer to general failures to follow agreements around recruitment and resourcing and day-to-day operations. It is necessary to show specific examples of where management are acting in breach of the Agreement.
The objective is, of course, to ensure that agreements are properly applied, rather than to take legal action. Reps and Branches are asked to monitor resourcing carefully, challenged specific breaches of Agenda for Growth promptly and Divisional Reps should advise CWU Head Office promptly of any failure to commit to maintaining status quo provisions where the union believes breach of the agreement is likely to take place.
All enquiries regarding the content of this LTB should be addressed to the PTCS Department, quoting reference 002. Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org