Link to this page: https://secure.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/625/9547
Defending the postal service
News that the Royal Mail Business Transformation Agreement was accepted by CWU members by a majority of 2 to 1 has gone down like a lead balloon at my delivery office.
A Coventry postal worker
The main issues which we are concerned about are job cuts, pay cuts for more work, and changes to attendance patterns, with longer Saturday working. We will be slogging round the streets for five hours in summer - I know this is Britain but it still gets hot sometimes - and in the dark during winter.
Once we delivered mail at breakfast time, but with four-day weeks and 10 hour days, we could be delivering at tea time! Once the public were regarded as the customer. Now it is the corporate mailers and downstream access companies who Royal Mail calls its customers.
Since deregulation in 2002 we have been forced into the unaddressed mail market.
We're unhappy about not being properly rewarded for the massive increase in the number of these items we will soon be delivering. We will be losing around £20 per week for delivering twice as many as we do now.
Many of us have family arrangements, like picking kids up from school, which will be disrupted. And although we've always worked Saturdays, we have had the afternoon to spend with family or play and watch sport. This won't be possible in future.
The nature of the job, walking the streets non-stop for 3½ hours carrying 16kg bags (currently 6-8 a day) is physically tiring. So the prospect of doing this for five hours with more bags is daunting and will, I'm sure, force people out of the job.
Other parts of the deal we are unhappy about include the one hour reduction in the working week (12 minutes a day), job cuts and the resulting increase in duty sizes and loss of overtime, which many of us rely on to make ends meet.
The deal contains nothing about dealing with the pension deficit, currently standing at £10 billion. This is particularly worrying because New Labour used this deficit to try and force through privatisation by promising to plug the hole in return for handing a 30% stake in Royal Mail to TNT.
Considering who has just moved into 10 Downing Street I don't hold out much hope of a resolution to the pension problem, while privatisation has moved a step closer.
Royal Mail failed to pay into the pension fund for around 13 years during the 1980s and 1990s. It is therefore the government's responsibility as sole shareholder to resolve the pension issue. And where did the pension fund money go during the 'holiday' period?
The deal has been passed by a 2 to 1 majority and change is on the way. How and when will it be implemented? How many job cuts will there be? No one seems to know, not management, not the union. Or if they do they're not saying.
This might sound like the rantings of a luddite postie opposed to change but it's not. Since 2002 my job has changed beyond all recognition. We've taken on around 50% more work due to the 50,000 plus jobs cut in that time.
Maybe this deal will stop the constant attacks on our jobs by management but management are never satisfied. It is only a three year deal. When I put it to a manager last year that we'd made £321 million profit but they were still cutting jobs, I was told it was not enough profit!
We're just ordinary working people who are genuinely worried for our jobs and pensions, the service we provide and of course for Royal Mail remaining as a publicly owned company.
In The Socialist 19 May 2010:
Youth fight for jobs
Socialist Party election analysis
Socialist Party news and analysis
International socialist news and analysis
Marxist analysis: history
Socialist Party workplace news