Thursday, October 29, 2009

Royal Mail's scabbing depots

Never mind the non-revelations in The Guardian's 'undercover' shock-horror expose of casual workers listening to music under their hoodies, and so on. Yes, Britain's number one liberal newspaper, scourge of corrupt MPs and multinationals, sent their reporter into a scab sorting office and he found out precisely fuck all. Socialist Worker, by contrast, accompanied a score of activists down to a Dartford sorting office, which Royal Mail says is being used to clear up early Christmas mail. They hoked through the bins, and established that Royal Mail is using the place as a sorting office for regular mail from all over the world. The casual workers are being employed at the minimum wage of £5.80 an hour on the basis that they are covering the Christmas surplus, whereas in fact they are being used as scabs. This, as SW also reports, is breaking the law. The temp agencies supplying these workers, Reed, Manpower and others, are not allowed to supply temporary workers for that purpose.

The news reports a breakdown in talks last night, saying that both sides blame one another for the fall-out (oh, they do? quelle reportage!). In assessing these claims, bear in mind that the CWU did make a serious offer aimed at establishing a period of calm yesterday, and that Royal Mail management is committed to the one-sided imposition of its preferred settlement. And bear in mind that Royal Mail management are circumventing the law in order to keep the mail moving, and thus break the strike rather than negotiate. And finally bear in mind that the TUC's role in this is not to support the strikers, but to operate as an independent facilitator of negotiations. The CWU leadership doesn't have a problem with this, though some posties do. But the point is that the major forces of the organised labour movement are pushing for a negotiated settlement, including the CWU leadership itself. The workforce has signalled through acceptance of previous deals, which shed tens of thousands of jobs, that it is willing to negotiate even to its disadvantage. The only intransigent force here is management. That's the bottom line.