The CWU’s deal with the Royal Mail seems like a cop out – and some members think it is

CWU general secretary Dave Ward stadning in front of a Royal Mail van
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Members of the Communication Workers Union (CWU) have voted ‘yes’ to the deal struck between it and Royal Mail. It marks the end of the union’s 2022-23 dispute with the beleaguered company. However, the result of the ballot leaves more questions than answers – and has provoked a mixed response among members.

CWU and Royal Mail: the end of the dispute?

The Canary has documented the protracted dispute between the CWU, workers, and Royal Mail. It has been long-fought and bitter, with some shocking tactics from Royal Mail and its bosses. The dispute has seen strikes, legal threats from Royal Mail, and the company’s near-collapse. However, that dispute is now at an end.

The CWU said in a press release:

on a 67% turnout, 75.84% of workers have voted to accept the Business Recovery, Transformation and Growth Agreement, which was brokered between Royal Mail bosses and union representatives earlier in the year.

This vote signals the end of the 2022-23 dispute, which saw over 115,000 workers take 18 days of strike action in the final quarter of last year.

The union’s general secretary Dave Ward said:

This has been the most challenging period in both the history of the union and the company, and I want to thank every single member that has voted in this ballot.

CWU members voted for various changes to their pay and working conditions. These included:

  • A 10% pay rise across three years.
  • Profit sharing with Royal Mail to the value of 20% for workers.
  • No compulsory redundancies.
  • Reduced changes to working patterns like start and finish times.

However, people on social media had mixed responses to the deal.

A mixed response to the deal

Some CWU members were unhappy:

Others (and there were quite a few) said they were cancelling their CWU membership:

However, on Facebook some people welcomed the deal. One user said:

Excellent news now let’s crack on with taking this company forward and getting out of the mess of this company is currently in

On Twitter, YouTuber NJ pointed out some “baseless claims”:

And the Canary‘s Curtis Daly echoed similar:

During a livestream announcing the result on Tuesday 11 July, the host had to acknowledge that:

We have got members who are really disappointed. We’ve got members… in the comments saying ‘I’m going to chuck my card in’, ‘I’m going to walk away’

Ward has directly addressed people’s concerns. He noted in a press release that:

Our members will know it doesn’t end with today’s result – we all know what is going on in workplaces across the UK and we are going to deal with it.

Many workers simply do not trust Royal Mail Group because of the company’s lack of integrity and the way they are being treated.

Some wanted more from an agreement. Others find the prospect of changes such as later finishes unpalatable.

Our job in the coming weeks and months is to make sure their voices continue to be heard.

Far from being an endorsement of the actions of Royal Mail Group, this result will be the start of the union reconnecting in every workplace.

We want our reps and members back to work through the independent review.

We want branches holding meetings locally and putting forward our own ideas and solutions within the framework of the agreement.

However, this may not be enough to quell some members’ – and the wider left wing’s – concerns.

CWU: questions to answer

Worldwide Socialist Website (WSWS) has been actively agitating against CWU bosses. It wrote of the deal and the ballot result:

the Yes vote is above all a vote of no-confidence in the CWU leadership.

The vast majority of those who voted “Yes” do not support the agreement’s assault on their hard-won conditions and entitlements. But they did not see any way forward.

Those who voted “No” represent the most militant and principled section of workers. Under any other circumstances they would have been the basis for mobilising the entire membership in a struggle to defeat Royal Mail’s attacks, but they were suppressed and savagely betrayed by the bureaucracy.

While the CWU claims it was the “biggest turnout” it has “ever had in a membership consultation ballot”, the reality is that only 50% of members voted ‘yes’ to the deal. This is hardly a resounding endorsement of the CWU/Royal Mail agreement.

Moreover, the CWU undeniably has questions to answer over its acceptance of an offer that, on its most basic level, fails to give its members a real-terms pay rise.

A microcosm of UK trade unions

Ward concluded by saying:

Turning this company around and shifting management attitudes was never going to be a light switch moment.

The truth is that the appointment of the new CEO of Royal Mail Group is the most important ever.

If the new CEO is someone that wants to take the workforce with them then this company can have a bright future. If the same old mantras continue then Royal Mail Group as we know will be finished forever.

Members’ hope will be that the CWU will indeed “deal with” the state Royal Mail is in – and continue to fight for better pay and working conditions for staff. However, it’s difficult not to think that the union missed a bigger opportunity.

Perhaps, though, this story is a microcosm of the wider trade union movement in the UK. Hamstrung by successive governments’ anti-trade union laws, and fighting amid the state’s class war dressed up as a cost of living crisis, union bosses tread a fine line between keeping members happy and not taking militant action which could result in a worsening of workers’ rights.

But maybe militant is what we actually need right now. Bosses at the likes of the CWU would do well to consider that – otherwise, companies’ and the systems’ degradation of workers’ most basic rights will continue unabated.

Featured image via the CWU – YouTube 

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