Jane Loftus opened the meeting which began with a minute’s silence following the atrocities in London the previous day.


Apologies were received from Dave Ward who has recently spent some time in hospital. Best wishes were sent to him from the meeting.


Terry Pullinger is with Royal Mail management for talks for 3 days so was also unable to attend this briefing.


Sections 1 and 2:


Reinforcing The Case For Redesign And The Work Being Carried Out On Redesign At CWU HQ.


The reason behind the redesign are in part due to membership figures and finances and managing the decline of both.


2015 saw a loss of 5000 members while 2016 membership fell by 1500. Funding from membership subscriptions for 2016 dipped below £30 million.


We are losing members who are paying full time membership and saw an increase in members paying less than Plan 1. This is in part down to the part time recruitment in our core businesses and not the full-time contracts that we have historically seen.


Clearly this will have had a dramatic impact on our income.


These are factual figures and the CWU need to manage the decline in membership and the impact this is having on the reduction in our revenue.


The union needs to develop a model that can help deal with this and bring the trade union movement to the increasing number of self-employed workers to ensure they are also protected.


The pace of change in the current work force is having an impact on the trade union movement.


A merger with another union cannot to be ruled out by the CWU, however, our stance is that we are not open for one trade union taking over another. If a merger is to be considered it should be a joint venture – not a takeover. But to avoid a merger we need to keep moving with the times. We can’t afford to stand still. 


Conference 2016 outlined a broad plan for a redesign beginning at CWU HQ in Wimbledon.


When approaching headquarters staff, their union – the GMB, got on board with changes that needed to be made. The GMB also stepped up to agree voluntary redundancy packages. 13 people left on voluntary terms in December of last year. This has resulted in a reduction in expenditure of £600,000 per annum. 


Staff pension changes also needed to be negotiated with the GMB. Currently the staff pensions cost around £4million per year. The changes already made will realise a saving of £98,000 in contributions by the union.


Contacts with external suppliers are also being looked at to try and reduce costs. While most contracts are small, the total sum equates to a large expenditure. Already the lease of high volume print machines and photocopiers have recently been re-negotiated with the revised contracts reducing costs by around £100,000 per year while the building maintenance contract renewal has cut outgoings by £14,000 per year.


Currently, the CWU are what’s known as cash poor but asset rich. We have assets totalling £39-40 million which include, The Elstead Hotel in Bournemouth, Alvescot Lodge Training Centre in Oxfordshire, CWU HQ in Wimbledon and funds sitting in Branch accounts.


Q&A and Statements


Q: Can a Branch analysis on decline be done?


A: Research has shown that most people leave the union because they leave the business with the major employers which the CWU represent.


Q: Can Membership reports to go out to Regional Secretary’s?


A: This can be looked at as part of the review. 


Q: Are branches fit for purpose?


A: This is currently under review by Trish Lavelle e.g. looking at branches and how they operate.


Q: Membership database – there are major issues with employers not providing data for up to 9 weeks. Why is that?


A: Membership auditors have been in to HQ to check data to consider relevant issue of MAC (Membership Accreditation Certificate) which allows the CWU to use the membership data base to contact members. 


Q: CWU HQ (150 The Broadway) is too big and not fit for purpose. Can the space be used to generate more income?


A: The ground floor is already leased to an outside firm. However, there is no mortgage on HQ, the union owns it.


Q: Are there any plans to change release arrangements?


A: Facilities and release agreements are down to the industrial departments and will remain so. It is inevitable that the core businesses will be coming after facilities time. In Royal Mail this currently costs £20 million a year.


Q: Why are our Retired membership numbers dwindling?


A: Issues with recruiting retired members is in part down to the default retirement age being abolished. Also, members either go early on a VR package and don’t necessarily class themselves as retired. Alternatively, some members stay on past 65 so branches struggle to know when a member is considering retiring. 



Statement: One region has 10% no members yet another region has 24% non-members. The CWU needs to look at what works, and how it works so that we can be better organised nationally.


Statement: Sharing of information between departments needs to be looked at to try and stop duplication of information, and for the information we do hold to be able to be shared. 


Statement: CWU initial thoughts are to see HQ based on three pillars made up of the two departments for the two industrial sectors arms, with a third department dealing with all Central Services. This is what is being looked at as a model for HQ.


We are a membership funded and membership organised organisation. Without the members we don’t exist. 


Section 3:


Delivering A More Ambitious Recruitment and Organising Strategy


It has been established that we urgently need to look at what we offer as a union. This will include looking at making the union more appealing to young members, retired members and families. 


It’s also necessary to resource our front line to strengthen our union in an aim to gain members and make membership more appealing. 


Part of the debate and contributions that were made in this session, encapsulated the issues we face. 


There will be a priority of training and resourcing reps in the work place. The debate is about putting this strategy in place and making sure that there is a joined-up approach nationally.


Our current structure has been the same since 1999 when we had 300,000 members. This is no longer sustainable. We need to change our structure to model ourselves based on the membership levels and revenue streams we have now. However, the whole point of the restructure is based on a fundamental need to review if what we have now works, and how we can improve on what we have to ensure we operate as effectively as we can.


We must deal with what we have and the position we find a ourselves in. We have two choices, deal with the situation we find ourselves in or find ourselves in a merger.  


2016 was the best year in the last 5 years for recruiting new members into the CWU, but we still lost members and revenue due to the number of business-driven revisions across the core businesses in which we represent.


Tony Kearns closed this section of the briefing by stating that if the people present believe in the CWU and want the CWU remain in the next 10-15 yrs. then there should be nothing to fear. 


Section 4:


Desired Outcome For Redesign


✓ An increase in Reps on the ground.


✓ Succession planning for the new generation of Reps and activists.


✓ Achieving our aims with proportionality.


✓ A sustainable, affordable and more effective structure across the whole union.


✓ An improvement of communications skills as well as the frequency and quality of our engagement with members.


Section 5:


Next Steps


✓ The Project Board to agree a terms of reference document to put to the National Executive Council (NEC) from Trish Lavelle. Looking at how we engage with Branches, Regions and Reps.


✓ The need to analyse the makeup of branches and regions. 


✓ To finalise and implement pension changes at CWU HQ.


✓ To continue and finalise the streamlining work at CWU HQ and implement the next phase of voluntary redundancies there.


✓ To develop a comprehensive communications plan on our re-design for members, Reps and Branches.


Amanda Hill​​​​​​​Austin Goldsmith

Branch Secretary​​​​​​Letter Section Secretary




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