Union’s plea for calm in Royal Mail dispute

A letter begging for calm was sent to all branches of a union last week
after balloting on controversial changes to working patterns was in danger of
descending into violence.

Derek Hodgson, general secretary of the Communication Workers Union, issued
the plea following a threat of a physical attack against a union representative
at Royal Mail if he did not oppose management proposals.

He was sent a letter with a craft knife blade concealed in the envelope.

The incident was the latest in a week of intimidating behaviour by
hard-liners against CWU reps, said a union spokesman, including flyposting and
circulation of "offensive" leaflets.

The militant members oppose the deal struck between the Post Office and the
CWU, known as The Way Forward, which is being balloted on at the moment. The
vote closes on February 10.

Writing to all branch secretaries, Hodgson said: "The proposals raise
strong feelings both pro and anti. However, I insist that the democratic process
should be allowed to progress without undue intimidation or threats to or from
anyone."

The Post Office supported the message from Hodgson. "We totally abhor
intimidation of members of staff and we are asking anyone with evidence of this
to notify a manager," said a spokesman.

The deal on the table is the latest attempt to change the working culture in
the Post Office ahead of its partial privatisation.

The process began in 1994 but has repeatedly foundered due to opposition
from employees.

The deal would see pensionable pay go up, a commitment to enter talks on
shortening the working week and a cut in overtime.

Concessions have been made since a former draft was rejected in a ballot in
November.

By Dominique Hammond

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