Royal Mail postal workers, already on strike on 26 and 31 August in a dispute over pay, have now also voted overwhelmingly for further industrial action over working conditions. The Communication Workers Union (CWU) reported that almost 99% of its members voted in favour of taking further strike action on a 72% turnout. Clearly the lead taken by the rail workers and dockers in refusing to take cuts in their pay and working conditions, at a time when the cost of living crisis is already pushing people onto the breadline, is having a tonic effect on workers everywhere.
Royal Mail bosses blame workers for the losses the company is making, resorting to the crudest blackmail and threatening that if there is not a “significant operational change” (that is, unless workers accept the imposition of inferior pay and working conditions) the company will be broken up and jobs will be lost.
Since the privatisation of Royal Mail in 2014, exposing the company to cut-throat competition from rival carriers, it has had mixed fortunes. When lockdown struck, Royal Mail management chased after elusive profits by cashing in on the boom in online shopping and prioritising parcel traffic.
But as the high streets reopened and online shopping took a dip, so too did parcel traffic. And now, with inflation ballooning and prices rising, consumer spending is contracting across the board. According to Royal Mail itself, the company is losing a million pounds a day.
There is a good deal of smoke and mirrors to be encountered in trying to assess the likely future of the company. Although Royal Mail may be losing a million a day, its parent, International Distributions Services, has hived off its profitable overseas operations to yet another entity, called GLS. Who really knows where the money trail leads? Not into the pockets of postal workers trying to make ends meet, that’s for sure.
The problems hitting Royal Mail have not been caused by the workers. The postal workers are right to strike to defend their class interests and they deserve the support of workers everywhere. And if something as basic and essential as the postal service cannot be run sensibly by the privateers, then let it be brought back into public ownership, and subjected to a national plan dictated by public need, not private greed.