Exclusive: here’s why the CWU pulled its Royal Mail strikes

CWU general secretary Dave Ward stadning in front of a Royal Mail van
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The Communication Workers’ Union (CWU) has cancelled all upcoming strike action against Royal Mail. This is in response to a legal threat from the company.

The Canary can exclusively reveal that the basis for the Royal Mail’s claim is a trifling technicality, but it was enough to force the CWU to act.

CWU: Royal Mail strikes cancelled… for now

Royal Mail workers have been striking for weeks. It’s over a paltry pay offer of nearly half the rate of inflation, as well as worsening working conditions. This was despite Royal Mail making £758m last financial year and paying £400m of that in dividends to shareholders.

Recently, bosses at the privatised company threatened 6,000 staff with redundancy and plans to axe 4,000 more positions. The CWU’s next planned strike was on Wednesday 2 November. However, on Sunday 30 October the union said it was halting all strikes.

The CWU said in a statement:

Following a letter received by Royal Mail’s legal team which attempted to undermine pre-existing strike ballots, the Communication Workers Union (CWU) voted this morning (Sunday 30th October) to withdraw industrial action notices over the next two weeks. This means that strikes involving various sections of the workforce over the next fortnight will no longer be going ahead. However, strikes will resume on Saturday 12th November.

Reports in the corporate media failed to give a solid reason for why Royal Mail had forced the CWU into a position where it had to stop the strikes. So, the Canary spoke to the union.

Read on...

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Royal Mail: pathetic

The CWU gave us more information – it shows that Royal Mail is being petulant at best.

It told the Canary:

In a very small number of workplaces across the country (less than five), the crossover of peoples’ job responsibilities would mean that when they would be striking, work would be going unattended that wouldn’t be covered in the legal notice given.

In other words, a minority of Royal Mail workers are having to do multiple jobs. Because of the terms of the CWU strike action, this multitasking is not covered. Therefore, by breaking the legal basis for the strike, the CWU might undermine the whole action. As such, it had no choice but to withdraw.

Bear in mind that there are potentially thousands of Royal Mail workplaces in the UK. For example, Leicestershire alone has 31, so five workplaces is a tiny number. Yet Royal Mail exaggerated the situation. It told BBC News:

The CWU has withdrawn strike action following Royal Mail writing to CWU to highlight numerous material concerns with the formal notification of planned rolling strike action

CWU: not backing down

General secretary Dave Ward hit back at the bosses. He said in a video message that:

we’re not going to be stopped in doing the right thing by people who have just turned up in the last 18 months and… have plans that are not about growing the industry. They’re about levelling down; forcing people out of work to bring in new entrants on lower pay, terms and conditions

The CWU was clearly aware that the decision to delay strikes would frustrate many workers. Deputy general secretary Andy Furey said in a statement:

We entirely understand the anger felt by many over the decision, but we believe it is a necessary move to protect our dispute. Our members have been facing down serious harassment from the highest levels of Royal Mail as they defend their industry and those communities they serve. They will not be forced into submission so easily, and we will be reminding the company of their determination at ACAS in the coming days.

It’s clear that the CWU will not back down, nor will its members. The union is now regrouping, with talks between it and Royal Mail continuing via ACAS on Monday 31 October. If bosses think they can stop 115,000 workers and the CWU on a pedantic and preposterous legal technicality, they’ve got another think coming.

Featured image via the CWU – YouTube

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