Mail, Royal Mail Group (EMP)
May 19, 2023
Serious discussion, hearty debate and united purpose at local representatives meetings in London, Glasgow and Belfast as the UK-wide tour wraps up…
Last week’s face-to-face meetings with delegates from North, South West and South Central England, the Midlands and Wales were followed this week by briefings for those from London, South East England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, while the CWU continued its national collective conversation. And again, the discussion was fair, respectful and, in the words of our general secretary Dave Ward, “A true credit to this union, to our wonderful representatives and our unwavering commitment to our democratic principles.”
From TUC’s Congress House in London to a packed house in Glasgow city center and then to Belfast’s Windsor Park football stadium, the agenda of each event was the same. The CWU leadership explained the new Business Recovery, Transformation & Growth (BRTG) agreement in detail, with Dave Ward and our acting DGSP Andy Furey presenting key elements of the deal – national industry officials Mark Baulch and Davie Robertson then elaborated on more specific operational details – and then answering questions from representatives, addressing their main concerns and responding to the different and diverging views expressed from the 59 separate contributions of the Chamber during the three meetings.
If we add this week’s 59 contributions to the 39 contributions made during last week’s two briefings, a total of 98 CWU representatives spoke at the five events. And looking back at the UK tour, Dave Ward told CWU News: “It was inspiring to hear so many heartfelt contributions from our front-line activists. These men and women are truly the lifeblood, the backbone of this great union and, in my and Andy’s responses to their various questions and points of view, I hope we have made it clear to them how much we, the leaders of the union, sincerely admire the fantastic work they all do.
“The issues raised can all be addressed through the various clauses of the BRTG agreement. We believe that we can only make progress on these points by endorsing this agreement. But only if the company adheres to the commitments it made in the document and this is something the CWU leadership is working hard to ensure.”
Revisions & USO Compliance: “Section 2.5”
(A selection of quotes from representatives, whose names and units have been omitted)
“Managers do not work with representatives and show tremendous disregard for the agreement. When are we going to see this change?’ (London Briefing)
“There is no involvement with the IR framework. Are there any consequences after this conversation with Mr. McPherson? Or is it just lip service?’ (Belfast briefing)
“They still tell us that packages are the priority. It is pathetic.’ (Glasgow Briefing)
“We have revisions that don’t work and management that doesn’t care about the USO. What will happen if we vote no?’ (London Briefing)
There was obvious anger among union leadership when they heard first-hand examples of local managers acting as a law unto themselves – the most common topic raised by representatives. Examples were cited of the stress caused on a daily basis by unworkable or unfeasible delivery reviews, of managers disregarding the company’s legal and statutory USO obligations, and even a disregard for various commitments made by both the CWU and Royal Mail done signed in the BRTG document itself. Both Dave and Andy quoted and repeatedly quoted section 2.5 on page three of the agreement, entitled: “Improving Quality of Service and USO Compliance” and states:
‘RMG and CWU are determined to urgently improve and achieve Quality of Service for everyone
products for all functions and USO compliance in all offices. To make this easier for both parties
commit to implementing an agreed set of measures to address current problems
implement where necessary and will develop a process together with RODs/Generaal
Managers/division representatives. Future review activities will include the restoration of joint operation
in all positions in accordance with current national agreements, including the IR
Frame. Revisions will be based on an efficient, fair and feasible workload. RMG and
CWU recognizes that this is an essential step in fostering improved relationships in the
workplace and the achievement of the purposes and objectives of this Agreement.”
The agreement therefore clearly includes a joint commitment to rectify current issues, as well as a return to full compliance with the IR framework for future review activities, they assured the assembled representatives. The CWU leadership took the myriad of complaints about these issues so seriously that urgent talks have been held with senior corporate executives stressing to them that failure to address this issue would adversely affect the outcome of the upcoming BRTG vote . During this week’s three briefings, Dave and Andy provided updates on these conversations, informing representatives that the company’s chief operating officer, Grant McPherson, had agreed to schedule a meeting of union representatives and regional operating directors next Monday. of the company and that a nationwide ‘zoom’ A meeting of each unit representative and each unit manager has also been requested.
Many questions were asked as to why the union delayed the original voting timetable by a week and our general secretary explained – during the briefings and also in a video message on the union social platforms – that this was to give the company the opportunity to to prove to staff that they will adhere to the commitments in the agreement. If the Royal Mail leadership has not taken this opportunity to make this clear at all levels, the CWU leadership may need to reconsider its decision to cast the vote. It was also pointed out that just as there are various political factions campaigning for a ‘no’ vote on the ballot, there are also factions within the Royal Mail leadership who also want BRTG to fail.
Lord Falconer Review: ‘Appendix 7’
(A selection of quotes from representatives, whose names and units have been omitted)
“We have had members fired and others suspended, some still without charges. We recommend a YES vote, but something has to be done and quickly.’ (London Briefing)
“I’m going to vote YES for those fired and suspended guys. I don’t like sharing the deal. But just to get these guys back.” (Glasgow Briefing)
“If this vote doesn’t happen, what’s the alternative?” (London Briefing)
The many disciplinary actions taken against representatives and members during last year’s dispute were also high on the list of concerns raised during each of the briefings. Suspended or dismissed activists who spoke were warmly applauded by their peers and in their responses CWU leaders expressed their solidarity and support and explained in more detail about the forthcoming review being carried out by former Attorney General Lord Falconer (BRTG, annex 7, P 34/35 ). Acting DGSP Andy Furey told the meetings – as well as the wider membership in a video message – that there is a May 26 deadline for submitting cases to Lord Falconer for inclusion in this Review and he urged representatives to ensure that members are informed of this .
It was pointed out several times during the discussion that if a majority votes against, this Review will lapse and that therefore voting YES was the only way to ensure that it would go through.
Salary, company finances and future growth
Royal Mail’s 2022/23 financial results reported an adjusted operating loss of £419m – a huge negative turnaround from the equivalent 2021/22 figure of a £416m profit. The numbers were widely anticipated and the overall perilous state of the company’s finances was mentioned at all briefings from local representatives.
The blame for this situation rests entirely with senior management at Royal Mail, our general secretary said in his speeches at the briefings – a point he also made in broadcast interviews on Sky News and GB News.
While it was true that market conditions had changed significantly in the post-pandemic period, those at the top of the company had made a dire situation immeasurably worse by paying huge dividends to shareholders, paying themselves massive bonuses and vicious circle to begin. attacking their own workers and the CWU, he specifically explained the hiring of temporary workers in an attempt to break the 2022 strike.
The financial situation that came to light at the beginning of this year was the main reason why the union leadership had decided not to call for further action following the renewed strike mandate as of the February vote, and the main reason why the CWU was reluctant to some of the most difficult aspects of the BRTG agreement.
And while the briefings expressed an almost unanimous sense of deep disappointment with pay, strong opposition to the company’s imposition of new contracts on new entrants and some of the other changes, there was also a general acceptance that the only way to mitigate these setbacks was to look at the longer term and work patiently – within the framework of the covenant – on improvements in the coming period. With regard to the coming period, our general secretary has repeatedly referred to ‘Achieving growth’ paragraph 2.3 on page 2 of BRTG. This clause, he said, was extremely important in the fight to increase market share and expand the role of the delivery driver – both socially and commercially – and was something that should be emphasized and promoted.
While some leaflets distributed by political factions to representatives taking part in the briefings in York, Birmingham, London and Glasgow had called for a full rejection of the deal, a ‘no’ vote on the ballot and a resumption of industrial action, this latter call-to-arms was not repeated in the meeting rooms. Only three speakers out of a total of 98 participants in all five meetings clearly called for renewed strikes.
Finishing up the final briefings in Belfast, Dave said: “Thank you so much to you, to your members and to all the CWU representatives and members across the UK for what you have done over the past year. beatings and bruises.
“There have been times in this dispute where we thought maybe this was the end — the end for this company and the end for this union, but we’re still standing, we’re still intact.”
Our general secretary continued: “We don’t have everything we want, but we have a strategy and foundation to improve it. Reaching a settlement is a victory – getting the union fully back in the workplace is a big, big win.
“Look at this deal – are you better with the deal or better without a deal?”