Postal Workers Day 2020
Communication Workers Union (CWU) assistant branch Secretary, and STUC Youth Committee member, John Carson, writes to celebrate the work of Postal Workers during this crisis, and to warn of the changes that are threatening the future of this great public service.
During this Covid-19 crisis, a great many of our Postal Workers have gone to many great lengths to serve their local communities: whether it is simply checking up on older and vulnerable residents, helping to deliver essential goods such as food and medicine, or playing a vital role in collecting the crucial Coronavirus test boxes: each act pays testimony to the great service that our Postal Workers provide; above and beyond their basic functions.
Every day, each member of our service takes their own share of risk to complete these duties and to serve the people of the United Kingdom. With concerns over PPE and social distancing still high on the agenda, it is only right, therefore, that here today we are all able to pay tribute to the men and women of the Postal service who are providing such vital services at this present time.
Already, the response of the general public has been absolutely overwhelming. Every message of support, every picture on a window, every wave from a doorstep is a massive boost and truly appreciated by all our members. It highlights more than ever the shared sense of solidarity and belonging that each of us enjoys in our communities, as well as highlighting the part we play in serving them. It is this social capital that is the true wealth and worth of the work Royal Mail does.
Sadly, not everything in the life of a postal worker is one of such happy and dedicated service. Since the privatisation of Royal Mail in 2013, many feel there has been a concerted effort by those in charge to undermine the service in order to prioritise financial profits. As a consequence, many workplace relations have become fraught, whilst morale in the company has plummeted due to a rigid managerial bureaucracy and top-level intransigence, which has replaced the virtues of collaboration and industrial progress. Only in December of last year it was announced that for the third time in two years, Royal Mail employees had voted to support strike action by huge margins – 94.5% approval on a 63.1% turnout – smashing the requirements of the 2016 anti-Trade Union legislation.
In immediate response to this crisis, the CWU have sought industrial peace with Royal Mail, postponing the approaching industrial conflict so that members could focus on doing their national duty as an essential service - whilst at the same time monitoring and helping to implement the new health and safety requirements of this Coronavirus reality.
In the last twenty-four hours, however, the approach of the company has been made very stark: it has rejected the CWU’s open embrace; and has instead embarked on a process of industrial confrontation. Royal Mail have just announced that they are moving to executive action to change the structure of the company and impose the cessation of the delivery of mail on a Saturday, without any prior consultation; and in direct contravention of previous agreements.
Whilst this may sound a minor change to the public given everything else that is going on, this in fact has major repercussions for jobs and conditions in the whole Postal industry. CWU Deputy General Secretary, Terry Pullinger, has said that this action announced by Royal Mail amounts to no less than a ‘declaration of war’ by the company on its ordinary members at a time when those members are simply trying to do their jobs in service to the people. With parcel volumes hitting peak levels, many members feel that this move is deliberately prioritising private profits over public service - and thus a gross betrayal of their national efforts.
Now more than ever, our Postal Workers need the strength, support and solidarity of the people of the United Kingdom and the entire Labour movement if we are to triumph over this coming challenge. We must cherish our public services and resist those who would sacrifice them for private gain.
In order to protect a positive future for the world of work, young people especially, need to join their trade unions and fight back as part of our collective resistance to these attacks.
On Postal Workers Day: stand by us - so that we can stand by you.