Sunday, October 25, 2009

A Briefing on the post strike - and the role of the TUC...

After an absence of several years I today attended a meeting of the Editorial Board (EB) of the entirely admirable Labour Briefing at which I heard a first hand report of the post dispute from a London postal worker.

The CWU members are solid in their support for the position of the union in the dispute – and in London where members have already lost a lot of money through extensive intermittent action the mood is one of relief that this is now a national dispute.

It seems likely that the employer's scheme to recruit temps to scab will work as long as the temps are not used on strike days themselves but only to clear the backlog on other days (although this will be for the courts to decide).

Activists believe that members could be persuaded to move to indefinite strike action in order to bring the employers to heel, but that this would depend upon clear leadership. The approach of Billy Hayes and Dave Ward to date does not suggest that they share this confidence or perspective.

It was widely agreed that it is bizarre that the TUC are offering to broker talks (and that the employers are willing to attend talks at the TUC but not at ACAS). This tells us that the TUC does not wish to be a real trade union centre (co-ordinating solidarity when workers are in dispute) but prefer to be a bargain basement alternative to ACAS.

Presumably Royal Mail will attend talks at the TUC (whilst refusing ACAS) because they think they can count on Brendan Barber to lean on Billy Hayes to offer further concessions in a way that the professional conciliators at ACAS would not do.

Maybe the civil service unions who organise the ACAS workforce should be complaining to the TUC about this blatant theft of their work?

All present at the Briefing EB agreed that our task is to support workers in struggle and to try to do what we can to help them achieve their objectives, not to “resolve their dispute”. It is a shame that the TUC appears not to recognise this!

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