Royal Mail Strike: Who will win?
There is currently a battle of words in the media between Royal and the Communication Workers Union.
Firstly, the union claims that a majority of it’s members support the strike. This may or may not be true. What is required by the 1992 Act is that a “majority voting in the ballot” vote yes for the strike. The union correctly claims that a clear majority, about two thirds, of those who voted supported the strike call. But what about those who did not vote? One can only speculate about their support. If the non-voters are a small minority then it remains true that a majority supports the strike. But the truth of the union’s claim depends on the size of the minority: the larger the minority of non-voters the less likely is the claim to be true. The Act does not require non-members of the union to declare support, but their allegiance to the strike is very dubious, as they are not even members.
Secondly, Royal Mail has problems with this strike. This is the first strike in a long time that is not apparently about money for workers. It is about modernisation. But what does modernisation mean? To management it is about more sophisticated machinery for sorting mail and packages. To workers it is about working faster, and walking faster on the daily delivery. More fundamentally workers fear that faster sorting will result in redundancies. So this strike is about job security in hard times. But money does rear it’s head at this point. Redundancies, voluntary and involuntary, cost management money. New machinery cost money. Royal Mail does not have enough money to pay pensions.
What to do? Should Royal Mail offer to pay decent compensation for voluntary redundancies. Raise charges for all commercial letters and packages, and use the extra to subsidise post for pensioners, and the outer islands of Britain? Ask the Chancellor for more money to pay for pensions? Pay for 30,000 extra wokers for the duration of the strike, and beyond? These are all hard choices, and produce a determined management. The prospect of job loss also produces determined workers. Who will win?
Lastly, Royal Mail has a problem in that modernisation is clearly an issue to be sorted by management. Or is it a problem to be sorted by both parties? In this case unions start to look good to the general public.