Friday, October 12, 2007

Maelstrom in Royal Mail

Have you noticed how Royal Mail keep changing the goal posts in the mail strike ?

What originally started about a pay rise and impending redundancy plans , then involved the fight over pension entitlements and the right to retire at 60 yrs of age and now has become for the Royal Mail mandarins , a campaign to end what they describe as "Spanish practices" [a racist epithet that is insulting to the many hundreds of Spanish who work in Royal Mail ] and now a demand for total flexibility at work .

What just is the "employers agenda" to use a term from the last big postal dispute and eventual agreement of the mid-90s which was supposedly the "way forward" for the business . Is there a hidden motive behind what many see now as a determined attempt by Leighton and Crozier to ensure that no settlement can be reached by negotiation ? It is not as if the CWU hasn't a history of compromise or reached deals that often favour management over its own members interests to protect the industry's viability . We have always got to try and look at the bigger picture which only the Bosses and Government have the blueprint of and that we only see fragmentary glimpses of their real objectives through the fog of battle.

For the worker , it is the money he takes home and the amount of work that he must do to earn it that is foremost in his mind , and lets not hide from the reality - it is to get the most for doing the least . However , for management , it is the entire opposite . They endeavour to extract the most work out of its workforce at the most minimum of cost . The inevitable class struggle , in other words .

This is the postal dispute , the conflict between worker and boss and it is management who are the aggressor in this dispute .

Executive action on their pension proposal cuts
Executive action through the imposition of later starting times
Executive action through the imposition of network changes
Executive action through the ending of Sunday Collections
Executive action against Engineers, the net effect of which will mean a reduction of 10% of posts.
Executive action through the cessation of Employee Share of Savings Scheme (ESOS).

Note that the pay rise , management's offer , that is , which was due in April has not been imposed by executive action .

Postal workers that have withdrawn their labour have OFFERED to return to work for an increase in pay and more talks over working procedures but the managers have REFUSED this offer and are holding out and DEMANDING that they accept their imposed changes unconditionally .

The Union want the issue of pensions removed from pay deal as it is a Group-wide issue not just the postal grades
New technology - Royal Mail want union support to roll out new tech program. Union will agree on basis that there is a share of any savings made!
Network 2007 and later starts - union will accept principle but state that each office should be able to maintain earlier starts if arrival patterns justify it - Isn't that flexibility ?
Full Review of MDECs should take place
Working groups to look at flexibility / D2D [ junk mail]

Certainly not the Luddite response against modernisation that Royal Mail's PR message endeavour to convey to the general public .

Touched upon above was the question of whether Royal Mail and/or the Government possess a secret plan . With a union that is keen to broker a deal as they have always done before but yet with a management that keeps switching the issues it may not be too paranoid of postal workers to believe that such a plan exists . Nor are they the only ones .

"...the DTI, the department responsible for this huge national asset[Royal Mail] , has officials deployed full-time looking at alternative forms of ownership. Regular talks have been held with investment bankers, Royal Mail executives and Richard Gillingwater, head of the Shareholder Executive, which looks after the state's business interests... officials from the DTI have also held deeply hush-hush meetings with Royal Mail executives that have reached the point of discussing the detail of potential changes in ownership, not just the theory..." Mail on Sunday 22 August 2004

A partial flotation of Royal Mail would raise anything between £4 billion and £6 billion if a buyer could be found - a buyer who would like to inherit a low cost and compliant work force with a new more limited pension fund liability - a business with a defeated trade union and demoralised membership .

As socialists , we shed no tears that this nationalised company may become privatised . Only those like Lenin who believed Socialism, as he said , means to "To organize the whole economy on the lines of the postal service." [State and Revolution] , after the example of Bismarck's Germany , remain under the misconception that it matters .

Regardless of ownership , the necessity for postal workers to organise within their industry and resist the attacks of their employers will continue and to which socialists will offer their support and solidarity , whether it is against the likes of Leighton and Crozier , appointees of the State , or against some rival mail company take-over , or a possible future Private Equity buy-out baron . The class war will only cease when Capitalism ends .

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