Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Posties get angry

Details are still a bit fuzzy, for this blogger at least, but it seems that Kiwi posties may be out on strike today as they campaign for a better collective contract. Reproduced below is a leaflet that has been prepared for distribution on picket lines in Auckland by some militant trade unionists.

Postal Workers are fighting

Posties are going through important industrial changes at this time. The 6 day delivery system is up for review and will most likely be replaced by Monday to Friday deliveries. How to implement this for the workforce without loss of pay is an important question for the unions. The introduction of new postal codes and mail sorting machinery will make many mail sorters redundant as the new systems come online. Retraining and compensation for redundancies is also essential.

The Council of Trade Unions (CTU) head, Ross Wilson had shepherded the Postal Workers Federation and Engineers Union (EPMU) towards joint negotiations with NZ Post. What are the dangers for union members in such a situation?

Settlement of a deal for both unions would be voted on separately, but what happens if one union voted to accept a deal and the other union voted to reject it?

Recent history gives us an example: The EPMU recently got into this situation with the Aviation & Marine Engineers Association, over the deal they proposed with Air NZ. In October 2005, Air New Zealand announced plans to cut 600 jobs from heavy maintenance engineering. The EPMU effectively set up a deal to ‘save 300 jobs’ but to sell out conditions (rostered shifts) of Christchurch based engineers. In effect, the EPMU wanted a smaller union to take a loss in order to save jobs.

The Christchurch Engineers rejected the deal (saved their conditions) but were subject to abuse / ridicule by the EMPU for rejecting the conditions, and the whole deal falling over. That placed considerable pressure on the smaller union about the deal.

The smaller union must be organised on the shop floor and ready to support their claims with action. Negotiations are only as successful as the organisation of workers is strong.

Organise action separately

The EPMU is likely to lead workers into negotiations and offer little other than talk, talk, talk, and a legal path. The EPMU delegates’ forums are few and far between. There is little opportunity for delegates to raise issues from the shop floor.

The EMPU organisers are expected by their management to run the meetings according to their agenda, so these meetings become top-down, less democratic.

The Postal Workers Federation can be a real leadership, and that would show up the weakness of the EPMU officials. PWF members can raise issues from the shop floor in more democratic union meetings. The communication back to members about what is being done is important to demonstrate effective union leadership, however organising in the workplace is most important.

Actions such as not signing off “round profiles” shows real leadership about the conditions that matter on the ground. Members and delegates need to be discussing how to implement work–to-rule, What we can do to prepare to take direct action to support claims?

Communication among union members is essential to take united action. Swapping phone numbers and using email and internet are ways to stay in touch. Setting up a telephone tree is a way to call meetings, and rapidly let all members know essential information. How else can members be prepared to take action if a union member is victimized by the employer? (eg. suspended or dismissed). Only the solidarity of union members in support of delegates can protect other workers against victimisation.

Taking the lead on the shop-floor would force EPMU members to question their officials and to also put pressure on for real action to support their claims. The potential for united action remains.

Having 2 unions in the workplace means that ordinary workers are questioning the union leaderships. An effective union leadership will carry the interests of members into all of its actions. We would hope that the best leadership would gain the most members and recruit the membership of the other union, which could then fade into deserved irrelevance.


A Class Struggle Leaflet by Communist Workers Group.
Website: http://www.geocities.com/communistworker/ PO Box 6595 Auckland

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