Branch Secretary Report 2010
It certainly doesn't seem that long since I put last years report together I don't know if that is age creeping up or just the busy year we have had yet again. For some of you your working lives will never be the same again, that could be the closure of Copperas Hill or the ongoing major changes in your respective work areas. The after effects of the closure is still being felt now with appeals still ongoing and even the recent spell of poor weather delaying mail and packets getting into the city. For those who travel by car will also see an effect with the VAT rise on fuel probably adding upwards of 8p per litre to your journey.
As with previous years reports it could read same old story and I could probably cut and paste from previous years and that would probably give us where we are today, but for those of you who take the time to read the report I will endeavour to give you the year that has just gone in the next few pages.
Billy Hayes General Secretary stepped in to speak at the AGM at the last minute literally as the booked speaker Bob Gibson had cancelled the previous night due to a family bereavement. Billy spoke of the difficult year ahead for the union in terms of the employer and the lack of regulation within the industry. He also mentioned how important it was to try and continue to support the Labour Government and make sure they would be re-elected. It was felt a change to the right would cause problems for a union such as ours that had its fair share of Industrial unrest and had made great play of its Industrial Power within Government. Billy also entered the debate on the future of the branch adding his support to our case to continue to represent members in the new North West Mail Centre.
The general election and local elections came round and locally it was a bitter sweet moment, in Liverpool we had finally seen a Labour council installed when nationally a split vote had seen the ConDem coalition take power. Locally Esther McVey was the only Non-Labour MP elected on Merseyside, several MP's didn't stand for election including Peter Kilfoyle, Bob Wareing and Eddie O'Hara all hard working MP's and always supporters of the CWU and its workers. They where always available when called upon, made themselves available to meet in the House of Commons and where always active in support of our members within their constituencies, I have written formally to thank them for their efforts over the years and will use this report to do so again.
The conference followed shortly after the election and we probably had one of the most notable motions on the Agenda calling for a vote of No Confidence in Martin Collins the officer responsible for Mail Centres. When conference arrived Martin had already left the union we hadn't seen communication as to why (retirement etc), the branch decided the motion should stand and was heard at Conference, unfortunately we had very little support on the floor ironically everyone who opposed from the floor said they didn't know anything about the closure program in the North West but felt Martin was a nice man. The motion didn't attack the man but it did question his performance or lack of in the closure of Mail Centres in the North West. The branch set policy on a number of issues including Pay, Security, Training, Education and Health & Safety. Conference also gave the branch a unique feel with us having Jane Loftus as President, Billy Hayes General Secretary, Tony Kearns Senior Deputy GS and Phil Callaghan on the standing orders dealing with conference business. Ian Corrin Bootle rep was our newest delegate along with Vinny Holyland from the retired members section. With several delegates moving and entering debates it was a busy and at times a productive week.
After conference came the news I think all the activists would have been expecting the proposal by the ConDems to privatise Royal Mail. On several occasions now we as a union and indeed as branch have been active in campaigning and stopping such legislation. Unfortunately due to the severity of the ConDem cuts we will be like thousands of other workers across the country campaigning to safeguard jobs and services. Whereas in the past the public have always supported us, this time it may be different when we come up against other Public Sector workers and campaigning groups fighting to save schools, hospital wings and the like. I have represented the North West CWU on number of occasions attending TUC forums to discuss the idea of joined up campaigns. Part of this process has seen the Lobby and Rally of the LibDem conference and March and Rally through Liverpool city centre, they're have been lobbies of the town hall and other effected public building across Merseyside and the Wirral.
Both nationally and locally we have started our campaign against privatisation and we have taken it to Parliament on several occasions. We have targeted local conservative MP Esther McVey with postcards, letters and billboard advertising in her constituency to bring the message home. I have also written to her on five occasions and received one written reply with the standard response outlining how I should be grateful I could take up part of the 10% in shares. I have asked to meet her on several visits to the House of commons, on my last visit as I stepped of the train her office called me to ask for a meeting that afternoon unfortunately for whatever reason Ms McVey failed to attend and has yet to contact me to re-arrange to do so. This line of action does not surprise me, as I'm sure a union official is the last person she would wish to debate the proposal with. The members who live and work in her constituency are also involved in trying to convince her to vote against the government.
It is important that this fight isn't just left to the union and its officers to do; we all have a role to play in safeguarding ours and the future of Royal Mail as a respected Public Service. Can I ask that you write to you local MP asking them to support the opposition of the ConDem proposal at
House of Commons Westminster London SW1A 0AA or email them at www.writetothem.co.uk .
We will continue to push our local MP's and councillors to back the CWU and we will continue to push Ms McVey to be accountable to her constituents, the conservatives never mentioned privatisation in any of their pre election literature or media events.
As we moved in autumn the closure of the Copperas Hill site began with the gradual shift of members and work up to the new site in Warrington. This probably hasn't been an easy process for some and wasn't made any easier by the employer with the timescales set. Can I take this opportunity to thank Marisa Clarke Area Admin rep, Paul Edwards Area Processing Rep, Ernie Jackson Area Distribution Rep along with their other committee reps for the work and hours they have put in during that difficult time. Having such roles in a closure / relocation program is never easy as at times there is information you can't always divulge and other information often bad news you have to relay. As I write my report Marisa, Paul and Ernie have all been re-elected and elections are under way for the shifts and some committee positions. Things will never be the same in the new site but at least you will have some continuity with the officials you have reselected.
In November we saw the last Memorial Service take place at Copperas Hill as always a sombre moment and it was good to see a large number of members turn out on a miserable day. Royal Mail have agreed to clean up and re-dedicate the memorials in the New Year and house them at the two new centres in the North at Sandhills and the South at Brunswick Dock, at the time of writing this report our retired members section have raised some concerns regarding the sites and access.
Similar to last year the biggest battle from a branch office point of view in terms of involvement has been the fight to represent in the new site at Warrington. The sad thing for the branch officials and Area Reps is that we seem to be having the argument with our own union who ironically back the employer in wishing the branch would withdraw the claim and allow a branch based in Stockport some 29 miles away (from the mail centre) to take over the representation. I'm not here to criticise other branches in how they operate but after several meetings that have taken place at times involving the Stockport based branch I would question what they could do better. The Merseyside branch has delivered on each occasion the union has asked, our ballot returns are high and our involvement is always high. We have as many of you will know delivered large numbers on picket lines and rallies alike. Unlike our colleagues in the capital we have a regular police presence on our picket lines not because they suspect trouble but due to the high numbers who often turn out.
The branch is financially well run thanks to the efforts of the Financial Secretary Ray Lucas and his direction of the finance committee. The union's solicitors regularly commend our legal & medical department. Although loosing members due to redundancy and people leaving the business we also continued year on year to recruit new members into the union. Communications between the reps and the branch offices and its facilities is second to non, each Area Rep has their own office, phone, mobile phone, email and internet access for the latest information or instant contact.
Our Lifelong Learning project is one of the most developed in the country not just limited to one office thanks to the work of Billy Butterworth, Paul Allan and Carl Dalton.
Our former reps and officials hold the following positions in the union General Secretary, Deputy General Secretary, Vice President, Divisional Rep, Regional organiser and ULR Regional Secretary not bad for one branch.
We have put forward the right case to represent the new mail centre it's not our fault its 1.5 miles outside of the L postcode. The only claim the Stockport based branch have is that they cover WA postcodes unfortunately the rulebook of the union doesn't mention postcodes it talks about members wishes and financial stability. Well the members have filled out petitions, voted in a ballot and we have also recruited new members on the site another message of member's wishes, we have also processed new Legal & Medical claims and financially we are on a sound footing. The branch won't stop in our campaign to deliver its members wishes no matter what lengths we ultimately have to go to. If we don't secure the Warrington site we will have to reconsider how we continue as a stand-alone branch and how we continue the use of 47 Seymour Terrace.
It will be a difficult year for everyone within our membership and your families due to the ConDem cuts and increasing in VAT, adding to fuel and energy costs driving prices up. We will see friends and family loose jobs almost a certainty in this city due to the high number of Public Sector employment. We will see attacks on our terms and conditions if we loose the Privatisation argument and we will also see our employer again come for savings. We will continue to challenge the employer and continue to push the union nationally with your agenda for better pay and to continue to improve our terms (the recent changes to the MTSF agreement was driven by our motions to the last two conferences). The recent improvements to parcels terms and conditions and the added benefits including the dental plan came from this branch. We will continue our campaign against the Privatisation and against the Public Sector cuts by using our political contacts and bargaining power within the TUC and the Labour Party.
As membership numbers decrease the revenue of the branch will also decrease and we will now have to start the process of looking outside our normal industry to recruit new workers to safeguard our future services. We have already spoken over the last few years in line with branch policy to other CWU branches based in the city (Girobank, BT Clerical and BT Engineers) and will continue to this and hopefully move the issue forward in the best interests of the membership. Certainly to me it seems crazy to have several branches of the same union in one city mirroring each other on a daily basis. If we are to stave off being swallowed up by the giant unions like Unite then we will need to look nearer to home and start the process of merging ideas and workloads ultimately leading to branch mergers. It will be a difficult year ahead for the branch and the union nationally as we will have to make difficult decisions that will change how we currently operate, it could mean we downsize or close some of the departments we have. One thing can't change we must continue to be an Industrial Based union who represents its members in the workplace, the wider industrial movement and politically as we join others in the challenges ahead.
In bringing my report to a close we have seen a number of members leave the business over the last twelve months can I wish them all the best for the future in whatever roles they may pursue and thank them for supporting the branch and CWU over the years. It is with some sadness I mention the following people who have left or will be leaving us in the very near future who have been very active in the union for over 101 years collectively.
Kevin Kennedy after has left through ill health; Kevin in my opinion was someone who could have gone far in the union with the skill and professionalism in how he went about his union work, he was just happy to help his colleagues. He was always a calming influence and at times during difficult disputes or negotiations was the voice of reason, as a branch we will miss him and I'm sure his colleagues in Distribution will do too, we thank him for his 32 years of service and hope his health will return soon.
Marisa Clarke our Area Admin rep has taken VR after the closure of Copperas Hill, Marisa has like Kevin worked tirelessly on behalf of the administration members not just in this branch but also across the region. Marisa has not always been recognised for the amount of work she has put into the job and the hours spent travelling to deal with her member's issues. Marisa been a member for almost 32yrs and has been the Area Rep for over 8yrs, again the branch will miss Marisa and I think when she finally leave her members will realise how much she actually did on their behalf. Marisa is one of the unsung reps we have in the branch structure who has had to work with a draconian employer often trying to ignore CWU agreements and its rep. We wish Marisa all the best for the future and her well-earned rest.
Finally Pat O'Hara is leaving the business after over 37 years many working on behalf of the union and its members both on Merseyside and Nationally. Pat rose through the ranks of the union to ultimately be the figurehead when he was elected President. Pat worked in a number of functions across the branch; he challenged the employer at every turn. Under his guidance the branch saw other branch officials get elected to the unions headquarters. Pat will be missed by the branch and the union Nationally as he was the first conference chair to clear the years business thus allowing all branches who had submitted motions to have them heard and be able if won to form policy. When I took over as Branch Secretary some years ago Pat made himself available to guide me through the different processes to get the job done. He would always be found joining the picket lines and attending rallies something I'm certain he will continue to do. The branch sends it best wishes to Pat for the future. The three above mentioned members all started out their union lives to try and make a difference and I believe they did just that.