Labour and CWU: Just a lovers tiff?

On Wedneday I posted the news that the London branch of the Communications Workers Union (CWU) voted overhwhelmingly in an indicative ballot to no longer fund the Labour Party. Socialist Worker believed that other branches were planning similar indicative ballots to speed-up CWU’s conference decision to ballot the national membership over whether or not it should continue to fund Labour.

On Wednesday at the Labour Party Conference in Brighton delegates voted to back the CWU’s call for ‘the government to take immediate steps to take responsibility for the Royal Mail pensions deficit.’ The emergency motion was seconded by Unite joint General Secretary Tony Woodley. Conference’s support of the motion would add pressure to those inside the Labour Government who still desire the part-privatisation of the service.

The Socialist newspaper this week carried an article whereby which they have laid the charge that the Government intends to smash the CWU union much in the same way Thatcher broke the miners in order to speed-up the ‘modernisation’ of that industry. The article said:

The biggest obstacle to privatisation has always been the postal workers’ union. This dispute is not about modernisation or combating so-called “Spanish practices”, it’s about Royal Mail and the government trying to smash the CWU to create a casualised workforce that any private buyer can use as they please.

Conspiracy or not? Well, I have it on good authority that the Government had already found a buyer for the proposed plans to part-privatise the Royal Mail and that the deal had already been signed before a bill was due to come before Parliament. I can reveal that the deal was supposedly signed with TNT and was kept in a safe until the bill passed through Parliament.

CWU members have until 8th October to cast a ballot in favour of national strike action over Royal Mail’s plans to modernise the service. The union is calling for a ‘yes’ vote and hopes that it can be consulted by the Government and Royal Mail over proposed plans to change the service.

Time is running out between Labour and the CWU to resolve the conflict. Unless the Government can bring the CWU leadership on board with the consultation process on the changes then the CWU has the potential to bang a couple of more nails into Gordon Brown’s coffin. What is perhaps most worrying for the Labour leadership is that the CWU leadership still has an ace up its sleeve- it can honour the conference decision to ballot the membership on the continuation to fund Labour.

If the next national strike is a messy one, and if Billy Hayes cannot be satisfied by any offer Royal Mail brings to the table, the CWU leadership would have no choice but to reveal its ace card and to pull the plug on Labour. It would almost be certain that unless the Government can appease the CWU it’s membership would most likely vote in favour of ending the CWU-Labour link.

The drama is certain to continue.



3 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Brian said,

    Dont think it’s much of a secret that the govt and Royal mail intends to sideline the union and or create a sweetheart union,my info is that the govt of whatever pale blue complexion will wait untill after the next election and then the CWU will be history just like the miners and the printers or so they wish.
    The next national strike and yes there will be a national dispute,(i think the vote will be 75-80% in favour of action) will not be messy,it will be co ordinated by activists,Billy and Dave will be on the sidelines.will we win?,no,will we lose? not if we stand together will we get a score draw? yes, and thats all we can expect.

    p.s will we vote to cut the link,do bears shit in the woods,popes a catholic etc etc

    • 2

      pluralprogressive said,

      By messy I mean’t in terms of a deal not being reached, not in how it is co-ordinated. After all the CWU pretty much single-handedly prevented Mandelson from bringing forward the bill for the part-privatisation of the service. The CWU has also been calling for a Peoples Bank which the Government looks set to adopt and to host in post offices throughout the country.

      A draw would effectively be the Government put all its plans on the back-burner and wait for the even more spineless Tories to finish off the dirty work. I don’t think they’ll risk the wrath of other unions joining CWU in a drawn-out battle like the Miners in ’84-85.

      I think its a matter of when the leadership decides to bring forward the ballot on cutting the link. I heard that they would bring it out for next week and send the ballots then, however I still reckon the ballot is the ace card that needs to be kept in reserve.

  2. 3

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