Article from the Jan 2005 issue of the Socialist , newspaper of the Socialist Party, Irish section of the CWI
An Post strike
8,000 show postal workers' power
by Terry Kelleher, CPSU Trustee
SINCE THE one day strike and march on 8 December, the CWU leadership has ruled out further industrial action for the time being and put their faith in Minister Noel Dempsey delivering on 7% pay rise.
An Post workers have had a 5% pay rise due under "partnership" withheld by the company, who have used the inability to pay clause. From February, workers will be due a further 2%. As yet, there is no sign that this 7% pay rise will be forthcoming.
The closure of SDS with 270 job losses went virtually unchallenged by CWU leaders, who instead of fighting the closure with industrial action, focused on An Post managements' breaking of their partnership agreement!
Management plans for 1,500 redundancies, wage cuts and detrimental changes to working conditions are part of the company's agenda to weaken the unions and assist the government in opening up the postal market to "competition" and privatisation.
An Post management's agenda must be challenged by all of the postal workers' unions. The 8 December strike shows the way forward. A concerted campaign of industrial action is now needed to demand the 7% wage increase, oppose all redundancies, and to force the government to provide a subsidy for the public postal service.
Recent losses at An Post are not due to over staffing or excessive pay rates as management claim. These losses are a result of bad management decisions and the fact that An Post provides many services that are financially unviable such as sub post offices in rural communities as well as subsidising the delivery of post to many parts of the country.
An Post's "social obiligation" should be quantified and the government should provide the necessary state subsidy to allow our public postal service to continue to function.
The CWU needs to move away from how the union operated under disgraced former-General Secretary, Con Scanlon. Under his leadership the CWU moved to the right, became totally undemocratic and did most of its business behind closed doors. The effect of this policy was to disenfranchise union members from their union and increase demoralisation. Under Con Scanlon, the CWU full time officials worked hand in hand with An Post and Eircom's management to assist them in implementing management's agenda and not to defend the interests of their union members.
But with Scanlon gone and the recent upsurge in militancy amongst An Post workers, there is now an opportunity for the union members to reclaim their union.
CWU members should begin to discuss how their union could be made more accountable and democratic. The march in December demonstrated clearly that postal workers can defeat management's agenda. A clear strategy of industrial action is now needed. The campaign needs to be opened up to the members and democratised. Action committees should be established by the CWU, CPSU and PSEU in all sorting offices and workplaces, aiming to include as many workers as possible in deciding the tactics, strategy and organisation of the union's campaign.
Ballots should be held amongst CPSU and PSEU members for a mandate for industrial action so that clerical workers can link up with CWU members in this battle. A date should now be set by all of the unions for another national strike, if management don't agree to pay the 7% pay rise fully back dated and without strings.
THE NATIONAL one day postal strike and demonstration of 8,000 in Dublin on 8 December showed the strength and power that postal workers have to take on and defeat An Post's management. The massive size of the demonstration also shows the huge level of anger and preparedness to fight that exists amongst An Post workers. This was one of the biggest demonstrations by trade unionists in many years. There was a militant mood on the demonstration with many wanting to know when further strikes would be called.
spoke to a number of postal workers:
"The job has really changed for the worse over the last few years, we're working harder and are under more pressure from management than ever before. On top of that we haven't even been paid what we are due under partnership because the government and management are putting on the poor mouth. We feel we've been very loyal to the company over the years and that we've taken a lot but now I think the attitude is that we are been treated very badly, and people are disappointed and angry."
Postman, Phibsboro sorting office (Dublin)
"It was great to see so many people standing up together for a common cause. We want our money. As a member of the CPSU I was disappointed that we were not on strike with the CWU. If we don't get our money and back dated all the unions should go on strike together and soon."
Alan Doyle, Dublin GPO worker
"Everyone on the march saw the determination of the members to stand up to management's and the government's agenda. We've had restructuring plans already. Partnership has got us into this mess, union action will get us out of it."
Eamonn McNally, An Post worker
THE SOCIALIST PARTY CALLS FOR:
- Reverse the closure of SDS.
- The immediate payment of the national wage agreement, back dated with no strings attached.
- No redundancies, no pay cuts. New technology should be used to enhance the pay and conditions of postal workers.
- A state subsidy for An Post to fund its social obligation.
- Set the date for one day national postal strike.