Article from the Feb. 2005 issue of the Socialist
newspaper of the Socialist Party, Irish section of the CWI

Irish industrial reports

An Post: Pay the 7% - No strings - No more delays

by Terry Kelleher, CPSU Trustee

THE CWU leadership has agreed to enter a binding arbitration process where the Labour Court will decide if postal workers are to get their 7% pay rise. The pay agreement "Sustaining Progress" allows for the Labour Court to investigate claims by a company that it is unable to pay. However this process is binding and the result would be forced on the staff in the company. The decision by the CWU to go down this road is a mistake and it runs the risk of postal workers ending up without a cent of the 7% they are due.

The Labour Court will conduct a financial investigation into An Post's accounts and determine if they can afford to pay the 7% increase outstanding to staff. The unions will be allowed to have their own investigator. The leadership of the CWU believe that such an investigation will reveal that the company can afford these pay rises. Then the Labour Court will force the company to pay up.

The Labour Court is notoriously anti-worker and tends to side with employers. It will decide on An Post's ability to pay the 7% by applying the criteria of profitability - in other words the neo-liberal rules of the capitalist market! They will not be considering the losses that An Post incur because of the social service that they provide, nor the fact that the government and the state should be providing An Post with a subsidy to cover the cost of its social obligation.

Postal workers can have no faith in the Labour Court deciding in their favour.

If the Labour Court decides that An Post do not have to pay the 7% pay increase, then postal workers should refuse to accept their decision and immediately push for industrial action to force the company to pay up. The demand should be for the 7% to be paid immediately, with no strings attached and back-dated.

The main lesson from the last few years is that talks and the partnership process has only led to the implementation of the company's anti-worker agenda. Industrial action has forced them to take notice of the workers' demands and it was a mistake to back off from further industrial action following the 8 December strike and demonstration.

The CWU leadership has also agreed to enter talks which will culminate in May, on other outstanding issues such as the company looking for 1,700 redundancies and major changes in work practices. An Post's management, backed up by the government are attempting to break the unions. Their agenda is to use new technology to lay off workers and to bring in "yellow pack" wages and working conditions as a step towards privatisation of the postal system. This agenda will not be stopped by talks alone. It will only be stopped if the negotiations are backed up by industrial action including strike action.

Euro50k a year for 12 meetings!

THE STAFF in An Post face 1,720 job losses, a recruitment embargo and a pay freeze. This has been the policy of senior management who claim the company has no cash. Management are also in the process of selling off some of its property and told staff they had to borrow money to pay wages late last year. An Post unions don't accept this bleak and grim financial picture that management have painted.

Yet while they claim to have no cash, a number of financial scandals have emerged. Management have pleaded inability to pay their staff a 7% pay rise due under Sustaining Progress but they could find Euro2m to recruit consultants. These consultants are being paid large amounts of money to impose the method of the "market" - that is to cut jobs, services and yellow pack the conditions of the remaining workers.

It also emerged that the chairperson of the company board has received a pay rise from Euro19,000 to Euro50,000. This increase of over 160% was received in July last year and back-dated to February 2003. This Fianna Fail appointee demanded this pay rise because of the workload of attending 12 board meetings!

CPSU ballot for action in An Post

THE CPSU is currently balloting its members in An Post and is expecting a strong mandate for industrial action. The AGM of the CPSU An Post branch voted unanimously to ballot for industrial action. The branch committee believe that this action is needed to defend the pay and conditions of the CPSU membership.

Senior management believe that the unions in An Post have too much say in the organisation of work and the setting of pay and conditions of the staff. They are determined to undermine this power which would allow them to more easily attack working conditions in the company.

The management recently decided to de-recognise the CPSU in Post Point, a new subsidiary of the company. They told the union that they could represent the staff in health and grievance issues but not on pay and conditions. Management have abandoned the last LRC agreement on staffing levels and refused to fill vacancies properly. With no overtime, staff in many areas are overburdened with work.

The local branch committee have decided to take a stand on these issues. They feel the best way to do this is to inform and mobilise the members to actively take on An Post management.

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