International Solidarity for All Postal Workers
This post originally appeared on the Communication Workers Union website.
The Communication Workers Union (CWU) is the biggest union for the communications industry in the United Kingdom with over 200,000 members.
In the US, members of the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) together with their comrades from other US postal unions are picketing sites belonging to retail giant Staples, after the United States Postal Service started putting post office counters into Staples stores.
At sites across the nation, APWU members have been protesting against the postal operator's plans, which union president Mark Dimondstein has dubbed "a dirty deal."
The deal introduced postal counters in more than 80 Staples stores, staffed with Staples employees rather than fully-trained, uniformed USPS employees, with plans to expand the deal to all of the company's 1,500 US stores.
According to the APWU, full-time Staples employees' salaries are around $18,000 per year, which is less than £11,000, and they receive "minimal training" in handling post.
The union - supported by the other US postal unions* and by the US equivalent of the TUC, the AFL-CIO - is urging customers to boycott Staples until agreement is reached to pay USPS rates of pay and meet USPS terms and conditions of employment.
"Our brothers and sisters in the labour movement are key allies in this struggle and we greatly appreciate their support," said APWU President Mark Dimondstein, adding: "we intend to win this fight against privatization and save our public post offices.
Commenting, CWU head of international affairs John Baldwin said: "The CWU sends our full support and solidarity to our comrades in the US" and pointed out that this latest development is "very similar to the franchising of post office services that's been taking place here in the UK.
"However, a key difference is that in the US there is no equivalent to our TUPE laws and so when workers are 'franchised out' in this way, there is zero protection under law of their terms and conditions."
"It's so important that we strengthen and develop our international links so that we can defend and protect all postal workers"John Baldwin, CWU head of international affairs
In continental Europe, postal workers are also facing almost identical challenges to our own members, John continues, describing a recent international gathering of postal union representatives in Nyon, Switzerland, at which Portuguese delegates reported on partial privatisation of CTT Correos. Plans are also in hand to privatise post Italiane and Hellenic Post whilst Australia Post has confirmed that 900 jobs will be axed over a 12-month period as part of the company's transformation plans.
"The way things are going, it could well be the case that in the next few years France will be the only country in the European Union with a fully state-owned postal service," explained John, adding that the CWU is widely admired abroad for the post-privatisation national agreement that we have managed to secure.
"I don't think there's any other postal union that's been able to achieve such innovative and ground-breaking protections for members - when our delegates speak at international events, we're often asked: 'How did you manage to get all that'?
"This is why it's so important that we strengthen and develop our international links - so that we can defend and protect all postal workers across all countries and stop the employers from playing workers in one country off against others."
*In the US, there are four postal unions. Post Office workers and clerks belong to the 300,000-strong APWU, along with plant and vehicle maintenance staff, while the National Postal Mail Handlers Union (NPMHU: 50,000 members) organises processing and distribution workers, the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC: 300,000) and the National Rural Letter Carriers Association (NRLCA: 100,000) are SOLELY DELIVERY WORKERS.
Find out more about the US postal workers' campaign and sign the petition here: US Mail is not for sale.