It all began a few months ago when a dilapidated sorting office and terrible working conditions led to a one-day stoppage in Tuam, Co. Galway. After the stoppage workers engaged in a work to rule when management refused to authorise overtime to deal with the backlog.
In Drogheda, post boxes were sealed by the company in an attempt to deal with a two day backlog after workers refused to cover for those on holiday in a dispute about overtime arrangements.
An Post management (appointed by the Minister for Communications) are so incapable and inefficient that they were able to turn a projected loss of million into ¤40 million within just a few months. All they seem to be good at is losing money, barking orders and bullying staff.
Being rightly pissed off over the non-payment of their promised 3%, not to mention the ongoing threat of up to 1,300 job losses, Communications Workers Union members voted 89.7% for a strike to get the rise. The CWU executive committee served two week's notice, giving An Post plenty of time to sort matters out. As we go to press the CWU has still not used its strike mandate.
Management's response was the introduction of unilateral changes without negotiation with the union or the agreement of the staff. This led to 520 workers being suspended for refusing to work those changes.
The bosses want to demoralise the workforce, making it easier to cut jobs and ultimately sell off the postal service, complete with a "tamed' workforce.
Postal workers need to show they won't take this lying down. Otherwise it will look as if nobody will stand up for themselves and we will see our services being sold off to fat cats like Tony O'Reilly and Michael O'Leary.
Workers shouldn't rely too much on the CWU head office. General Secretary, Con Scanlon, earns ¤250,000 per year as a di-rector of Eircom Ltd., Eircom Esot Trustee Ltd., Eircom Fundings (Holdings) Ltd. and Valentia Telecommunications. And that's on top of his CWU wage!
Con has certainly long forgotten what it's like to be an ordinary worker. A delivery person earns an average of ¤354.12 per week.
Common sense tells us that struggles are best managed by the people who will be most affected by their outcome. Fighting for reasonable working conditions is tied up with fighting for more democracy and militancy in our unions. To be effective we need rank and file control, which means hearing all the arguments and taking the important decisions at meetings of post men and women.
by Joe King
This edition is No81 published in May 2004