Britain's postal workers have offered to become an additional emergency service during the crisis: delivering food and medicine, and checking on the vulnerable. It's time Royal Mail got behind them.
For the third time in three years, the Communication Workers Union have delivered a national industrial action ballot in favour of strike action.
For the second time in the past six months, our postal workers have overcome the limits imposed on them by some of the harshest anti-union laws in Europe to show that too many are deeply unhappy with the current state of Royal Mail, and want to say so with action.
I would like to pay tribute to our members, who refused to be stifled or bullied, and wish to defend our postal services with their combined might.
This is despite CWU members, like the rest of the UK, being focused on the impact of the coronavirus crisis. This is a huge mandate both in support of their union but also in opposition to Royal Mail’s attacks on jobs and services and its plan to turn The Royal Mail into just another glorified parcels carrier.
The reality is that since we embarked on this ballot just two weeks ago, the growing health crisis is changing the country and rightly occupying all of our thoughts.
In recognition of the fact that Royal Mail Group is the only service that connects every address in this country through its universal service, something our dispute is seeking to protect, we have made a proposal to the company based on putting the interests of the nation first.
Our message to the public we serve, the government and shareholders is – we want to set aside our differences with Royal Mail and, subject to prioritising the health and safety of our members, we want postal workers to become an additional emergency service in the UK. We believe this could really help the country in these unprecedented times.
Postal workers are embedded in every community in the UK. They are trusted figures. They are part of the social fabric of society. For a lot of people the only person they will see every day will be their local postal worker – we want to be there for those people.
At present, the provisions for our members are not good enough. Not enough sanitisers, not enough gels and not enough consideration of the situation from management.
We will be making it clear to the company as a matter of urgency that this is unacceptable. If we can get these basics in place and agree the introduction of the very best health and safety protections as well as equipment that can guarantee our members safety, postal workers are ready to help the country.
To reassure our members: we don’t want you putting out fires or dealing with emergency services. But you, like no other group of workers, can connect the country. We see postal workers delivering medical aid, checking on the elderly and vulnerable, delivering local to local services and supporting people working from home. We could also assist with foodbank collections and the delivery of food parcels to those most in need.
We have written to the Prime Minister to confirm this offer. I have a feeling the world coming out of the coronavirus crisis will look very different from the one we have now. But postal workers delivered through World Wars and they will deliver through this if they are protected.
I ask everyone to remember this is the next time someone attacks a trade union or their members. We are the very best of both.