Coventry postal worker responds to closure of Royal Mail pension scheme

Coventry postal worker responds to closure of Royal Mail pension scheme

Striking postal workers in Coventry

Royal Mail have announced plans to close the current Defined Benefit pension scheme in March 2018. The following response was written by a postal worker and Communication Workers Union (CWU) member in Coventry.

Their plan is to put members into an inferior alternative, with no certainty of what members would earn – workers could lose up to a third of their future pensions.
The consultation with the CWU and postal workers have been swept aside as Royal Mail seems determined to undermine terms and conditions, pay and pensions since privatisation in October 2013.

The CWU have rightly spoken out condemning the possible imposition of these pension changes without agreement, but words need to be turned into action very quickly or postal workers like me will stand to face a future of poverty in retirement.

Royal Mail claim they cannot afford to keep paying the current pension, even though it has found £650m to pay shareholders dividends over the last three years.

For workers like me, retirement is fast becoming an elusive dream as the Tory government move the retirement age higher and higher. What chance have I got to live out the rest of my years with some kind of comfort if the government and my employer ‘robs’ the very pension I have worked for?

Royal Mail have not listened to the thousands who voiced their concerns during the consultation and so the CWU need to gather the workforce behind an all-out battle to defend our rights for a decent pension.

It is pretty clear that Royal Mail have no intention of changing their objective of rewarding shareholders while punishing the workforce, so only a clear call to strike action is the only course of action that will get Royal Mail to change course.

Working class families have been paying the price since the banking crisis of 2007/08 and we are all living with the effects of cuts to services every day.

The need for co-ordinated action across all unions against the attack on our pensions and pay is stronger than ever – we have had enough of seeing the top 1% getting richer from hammering us into the ground.

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Our best pictures of today’s protest

Our best pictures of today’s protest

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Off to London – Tories out!

Over 50 people from Coventry and Leamington joined the anti-austerity protest in London today, including a number of members of Coventry Socialist Party. Below are some of the best pictures we took today!

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Time for Cameron to go – and take the rest of the Tories with him!

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The FBU fire engine!

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Teachers say no to forced academisation

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Tories out – time for a general strike!

Live: Coventry Socialists join London protest against austerity

Live: Coventry Socialists join London protest against austerity

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On the bus to London – Tories out!

Coventry Socialist Party members are joining a march against austerity in London today. Trade unionists on the Coventry bus represented a number of unions including Unite, UNISON, Coventry TUC, NUT, CWU and PCS.

Jane Nellist from Coventry NUT said “We are joining the march today because we have to ensure that we build a fightback against Tory plans to destroy our public services.”

Socialists will be building the fight against austerity and arguing for a socialist alternative to capitalism. The Tories are split, the trade union movement needs to organise a 24 hour general strike to co-ordinate the fightback!

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NUT and CWU members from Coventry

Firefighters take action in Coventry – pictures and report from Radford and Foleshill

Firefighters take action in Coventry – pictures and report from Radford and Foleshill

Picket line in Foleshill

Picket line in Foleshill

Members of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) started industrial action at 6pm this evening, the beginning of 4 days of national  industrial action against attacks on their pensions, privatisation and in defence of one of the most vital of public services. Firefighters mounted strong and visible pickets with members of the Socialist Party and Socialist Students attending pickets at Radford and Foleshill fire stations to show our support. There is much public support for the FBU, as could be witnessed by the constant tooting of horns as cars passed the pickets.

Socialist Party and Communication Workers Union member Glen visited the Foleshill picket he said

Spent some time with the firefighters at Foleshill, as they continue strike action to save the service we take for granted. I thought I was up to speed on the issues of the dispute. I thought I had a good idea of how the cuts are affecting them and their ability to do their job safely. Which is to save our lives, while protecting their own. Well I had another think coming. It’s one thing reading about inadequate equipment, lack of breathing apps, privatisation, cuts to the pension etc. But to hear stories of people being saved in fires and accidents, only through the goodwill of the people in the service… While paying more in pension contributions, to work longer and get less. Well. All I’ll say is pop down to your local station. Have a chat and show that we support them. Because you never know when you’ll need them. Solidarity.

Here is a selection of pictures from the picket lines at Radford and Foleshill.

Radford picket

Radford picket

FBU flags in Foleshill

FBU flags in Foleshill

 

Members of Socialist Students from Coventry University show support

Members of Socialist Students from Coventry University show support

 

 

 

Privatisation threatens postal service

Privatisation threatens postal service

TUSC campaigner Rob McArdle

TUSC campaigner Rob McArdle

The following article was written by Rob McArdle who is a campaigner for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) and the Socialist Party. He is also a member of the Communication Workers Union and stood for TUSC in Lower Stoke ward in the recent local elections. The article was published in the current issue of ‘The Socialist’ newspaper.

Privatisation threatens postal service

By Robert McArdle, CWU member, South Mids Postal (Coventry, in a personal capacity)

On the very week Royal Mail reported a 12% rise in operating profits to £671 million, the newly privatised company was complaining about ‘market competition’ from the likes of TNT.

It’s ironic that directors at Royal Mail recently toured the country seeking to convince workers that ‘external investment’ was the only way forward for Britain’s postal service.

As we have highlighted in the Socialist, privatising Royal Mail would be a big mistake for the public. And now, within months of its undervalued sell-off, the threat to the universal postal service is again on the agenda.

The daily delivery service to the 29 million homes and businesses is threatened because competitor companies like TNT cherry-pick end to end delivery in places like London and Liverpool.

The industry regulator Ofcom responded by saying: “We would expect Royal Mail to take appropriate steps to respond to the challenge posed by competition, including improving efficiency.” In reality this means increasing workloads and pressure on postal workers.

Jobs

The threat of reducing the six-day delivery service would have a significant impact on jobs and services within Royal Mail.

It could also be used by management as a weapon to try and force through inferior working conditions and also have an impact on future pay deals.

Over the next few years we will see the battle lines being drawn between a management driven by market profits and the CWU union, who will need to defend their members against vicious cost-cutting attacks.

The historic deal that has just been signed by the CWU and Royal Mail protecting jobs and conditions, will be tested over the next two years. Postal workers are right to be concerned about their future once the agreed pay deal comes to an end. Thousands of jobs were lost at BT after privatisation of the telecoms company and those remaining workers have seen their terms and conditions weaken due to the ‘partnership’ between management and the CWU.

The lesson for postal workers is clear – they need the union to fight to protect the gains made over the years. Royal Mail bosses will continue their race to the bottom as they seek to increase profits for shareholders but the CWU will need to stay alert to the dangers of ‘partnerships’. Workers’ ultimate power lies in the ability to withdraw their labour as a last resort.

The solution for Royal Mail’s difficulties is simple; take it back into public ownership. Then the postal service could be delivering a service based on public need not on private greed.

CWU Royal Mail agreement: Defend our right to strike!

CWU Royal Mail agreement: Defend our right to strike!

By a Coventry Postal Worker

Postal strike in Coventry

Postal strike in Coventry

The Communication Workers Union (CWU) announced before Christmas that it has reached a “landmark agreement with Royal Mail that gives workers legal protections on their terms and conditions, increases pay over three years by 9.06%, sets out improved industrial stability and safeguards pensions”.

But once the dust settles workers may be in for a bit of a shock. Tucked away under all the gloss we find the brutal reality of what the pay talks really means for Royal Mail workers – a no strike deal.

On the surface the pay increase seems generous, with a 3% pay rise in the first year, although employees will only be 0.1% better off once RPI is taken into consideration.

Royal Mail reported £233 million in half-yearly pre-tax profits recently (or £1.58 billion if you include the one-off windfall resulting from a pension reform), so it can well afford a pay increase for workers.

Other aspects of the proposed deal should be welcomed, such as “no employee will be engaged on a zero-hours contract” and “the employer will not outsource, sell or transfer any part of its business”.

Yet the sticking point for CWU members is a clause in the legally binding protections where the agreement can be torn up by Royal Mail if: “there is national-scale industrial action (in the form of a strike or action short of a strike) which has been authorised at national level by the CWU, namely industrial action which either (i) involves employees in the majority of operational workplaces across Royal Mail Group Limited; or (ii) involves employees in an integral part of the operation whereby taking action will have, or is reasonably likely to have, a similarly disruptive effect.”

Once you take away the strongest weapon, our ability to withdraw our labour, then you are left with just a talking shop of constant compromise that inevitably favours the employer and erodes pay and conditions for workers.

Royal Mail plan to introduce new ways of working over the coming years, buzz words like “efficiency” and “incentive arrangements” are littered throughout the proposed agreement and once those details finally emerge, workers will be squeezed even tighter to produce more profit for shareholders.

There is a ballot on the deal this month but postal workers need to look beyond the cash incentives and think long and hard before they cast their vote.

For me, I would never approve of a ballot that takes away my basic human right to strike.

Postal strike – no retreat from defending jobs and working conditions!

Postal strike called off for now

No retreat from defending jobs and working conditions!

Postal strike in Coventry

Postal strike in Coventry

The following article written by a CWU member in Coventry was carried in ‘The Socialist’ newspaper earlier this month in the aftermath of the postponement of the CWU strike. 

By a Coventry postal worker

Communication Workers Union (CWU) members are worried that their union was the first to blink as they stared into the eyes of the privatised Royal Mail bosses.

Having gained a resounding 78% ‘Yes’ vote for industrial action, members may have felt that they were being led up the garden path as the CWU ‘stood down’ from the planned 24-hour strike on 4 November.

While talks are complicated and on-going – calling off strike action could well play into the hands of the employer who will continue to drag out talks in the hope support for action will drop.

A ground-breaking deal that protects workers’ terms and conditions is worth fighting for but we know that goes against the ethos of a privatised Royal Mail, particularly in the worst capitalist crisis for 70 years.

An improved pay offer is likely to be offered and an agreement is expected before 13 November, as both the CWU and management clear their diaries for talks.

But workers are right to be concerned about their future terms and conditions. The big Royal Mail shareholders will try to call the shots in the years to come – with a race to the bottom.

Bosses want the CWU to sign up to a three-year no-strike agreement. This would be a serious mistake for the CWU even to contemplate this.

It would give management a free rein to pursue its agenda of increased workloads and savage budget cuts.

Instead of taking strike action on 4 November, CWU reps across Royal Mail and the Post Office attended a national briefing in London.

While this was an opportunity to fire up union reps, it was not as effective as the collective workforce taking industrial action.

Pulling back from strike action while a deal is not yet on the table presents a real danger that Royal Mail could undermine the strength of feeling within the union by delaying tactics.

The CWU has a strong mandate for taking strike action. To ensure that no further momentum is lost in this dispute there has to be a strict timetable for the talks with the threat of strike action if nothing productive has been gained.

CWU should meet all other unions currently in dispute to discuss mass coordinated strike action as a step towards a 24-hour general strike to stop the Tory-led austerity offensive.

In any case, if Labour had given a commitment to re-nationalise Royal Mail, the plug would have been pulled on the sell-off.

That inaction should prompt a debate within our union about our continued affiliation to Labour and the need for a new mass workers’ party based on the unions