Postal Conference 2024 – Day Three

Postal, Union Matters

Conference closes with a rallying call from our new DGSP after a busy day featuring Emergency motions on crucial issues and a special tribute from Postal members to a working-class hero from Telecoms…

“There’s never been a more important time to get back into workplaces and re-engage with our members – let’s get out here and let’s do it,” said deputy general secretary Martin Walsh as he brought Postal Conference 2024 to a close – his first since his election to the role and also possibly the most important Postal Conference in the CWU’s history.

Held for the first time since the 2022/23 national dispute, this year’s event was always going to be a key test of the union’s durability and of its ability to rebuild and restore strength and presence against the backdrop of the most difficult period postal workers have endured. And what became clear as the week went on, from the discussions, debates and decisions, was a collective feeling of determination and unity of purpose from delegates representing every part of the UK and every function within the industry. The challenges of today and the challenges ahead – tough as they undoubtedly are – will be faced up to honestly and met together.

“Re-engagement has been the key theme this year,” said Martin, “and it’s been great to see how many first-time delegates and first-time speakers have come to the rostrum. It’s especially good to see this in the context of the aftermath of such a bitter dispute.”

Takeover concerns & the CWU position…

The third and final day of Postal Conference had begun with an emergency motion moved by our general secretary Dave Ward and which sought delegates’ approval of a policy and strategy statement arising from reports that a foreign private equity investor, EP Corporate Group, could be buying into – potentially taking a controlling stake of – International Distribution Services (IDS), Royal Mail Group’s corporate holding company.

In his motion-moving speech, Dave Ward said that, while the union’s leadership viewed this potential development with serious concern, that concern should not be interpreted as any kind of endorsement of the current leadership of the company and that what the industry urgently needs is a new ownership and governance model that will focus on its responsibility to deliver in the best interests of the UK public, of businesses and of the workers who provide this essential service.

The motion set this position and laid out several specifics, which included the clear warning that, in the event of any takeover, the union will:

‘…oppose by all means possible any attempt to:

  • Break up the company
  • Introduce franchising to Royal Mail
  • Introduce outsourcing into the company
  • Introduce a three or four day USO or other severe USO cuts
  • Raid the pension surplus’

And, on the idea of a new ownership and governance model, the motion specified that it must commit to:

‘…building a postal service for the workers and customers – not one solely focused on shareholder payouts, driving down the service and lowering the pay, terms and conditions of postal workers and to launch the widest possible public and political campaign to deliver this.’

Summarising the motion, Dave said: “We will not support this bid. It can’t be right that UK keeps handing over its assets to foreign owners. And we can’t support the current board. Sorry, that ‘ain’t gonna happen. We’ve got plans for growth, for a new model, and we’re going to launch that campaign.”

“And concluding with a call for delegates top vote for the motion, and to also take the issues out and into workplaces, Dave added: “We need to get out there and speak with our members on this. Let’s do this together. Carry this motion and unite our members behind it.”

Martin Walsh seconded the motion, also urging Conference to vote for it. In the ensuing debate, around a dozen delegates came to speak – all of them expressing support for the proposition, which was then carried unanimously. 

Ofcom, USO & job security…

A second emergency motion followed, our DGSP explain while moving it that he had hoped to have been able to present Conference with a set of agreed principles following top-level discussions with Royal Mail, but that the current potential takeover situation had temporarily frozen further progress on this.

The aim of this motion therefore, Martin explained, was to seek the formal approval of Conference for the position being taken by the CWU in these talks, the key points of which include opposition to:

‘…any decision by Ofcom to any reduction in delivery frequency to a three or four day USO and any speed of delivery option which delays First Class or moves the delivery of Second Class products to just two days a week.’

Further aspects of this CWU policy position include conditional agreement that:

‘…Royal Mail’s proposed optimised delivery model, which delivers First Class six days per week at current delivery speeds, is worthy of modelling and potential trials.’

And the conditions of the union agreeing to this include a commitment to no compulsory redundancies across RMG, a programme of improvements to workplace industrial relations, improvements to Quality of Service and USO compliance and renegotiation of new entrants’ terms and conditions, as well as several other specifics.

Our DGSP detailed the various issues around the potential optimised delivery model, as well as the other aspects contained within the motion and asked Conference to support it.

Seconding the motion, outdoor secretary Mark Baulch said: “Royal Mail have to commit to real change in the workplace and to working with this trade union. This is an important step on the journey and together on that journey, we will take this agenda and these issues forward.”

Speaking for the proposition from the South East Division, Steve Wisely said: “Members expect to see their job security and IR issues resolved as a matter of urgency. We’ve got to make sure we take our members with us on this. It’s our opportunity for new hope. If we can return to our units with fresh belief, we can grow the membership with positivity.”

Ralph Ferret, South Wales/South West divisional rep, also supporting the motion, said: “Any change to USO now has to be on basis of resolving workplace issues. We have got make a positive case that we’re going to resolve some of those problems,” while London divisional rep Steve Beadle, expressing his backing, said: “We have to make the duty patterns more palatable.”

At the end of the debate, this motion was also unanimously approved by Conference.

A working-class hero

After serving as deputy general secretary in the CWU’s Telecoms & Financial Services constituency for 16 years, Andy Kerr retired at the close of the T&FS Conference. After their business concluded, Postal delegates were delighted to welcome him into their hall to wish him the fondest of farewells. A special tribute video was played to the room, in which several personal messages were conveyed to him.

In Martin Walsh’s speech to the hall, he said to Andy: “You are a true working-class hero and you deserves every bit of respect from everyone in here and across our movement. Your bravery and commitment to the membership are unbelievable. On behalf of every postal delegate and members we stand with you support you love you. You are a legend. Thank you.”

In reply, Andy said: “I’m very honoured and privileged to have worked for this union over the years. It’s a great union. You should all be proud of it and very proud of the work you do in the delivery offices, mail centres, parcel depots and everywhere else.

“I’ve fought for workers’ rights all my life and will continue fighting for workers’ rights.

“Thanks very very much to you all and I wish you all the best for the future.”

Thank you Andy!