Communication Workers Union (UK)

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Communication Workers Union (UK) logo.png
Full name Communication Workers Union
Founded 1995
Members 204,500
Affiliation TUC, ICTU, STUC, Alliance for Finance, Labour Party,[1] NSSN
Key people Billy Hayes, general secretary
Office location London, England
Country United Kingdom

The Communication Workers Union (CWU) is the main trade union in the United Kingdom for people working for telephone, cable, DSL and postal delivery companies, with 204,500 members.[2]

Formed in 1995 by the merger of the Union of Communication Workers with the National Communications Union, its current general secretary is Billy Hayes. CWU members work for Royal Mail, Post Office Ltd, BT, O2, cable TV, Accenture HR Services, Orange, Virgin Media and other communication companies. Members' expertise includes engineering, computing, clerical, mechanical, driving, retail, financial and manual skills.

2007 Royal Mail industrial action[edit]

The basis of the strike was a disagreement over pay and pensions. On 7 June 2007, the union's postal members voted by 77.5% to strike after a 2.5% pay rise coupled with £350 million every year for five years (totalling £1.5 billion) of cuts was offered.[3][4] They took their first one day strike on 29 June 2007, and the second on 12 July and 13 July. The action then progressed to a series of rolling strikes.

2009 Royal Mail industrial action[edit]

Further industrial action was taken in 2009. An overwhelming YES vote of 3 to 1 backed the action and 2 days of national strike action was taken in October 2009. This followed significant periods of local strike action in London, Bristol and areas of Scotland. Following the national days of action, the TUC were involved in brokering an "interim agreement" that provided a "period of calm" for the Union and Royal Mail to negotiate a full and final agreement on the introduction of modernisation and relevant working practices. Following the interim agreement, strike action was suspended and talks held under the auspices of ACAS.

In December 2009 a national agreement was struck and a ballot of the membership on an agreement on pay and working conditions was carried out. This agreement was overwhelmingly supported by CWU members in January 2010. The agreement increased pay and changed working arrangements, particularly in delivery. The agreement was headed "business transformation" and discussions and implementation arrangements continue nationally and in each workplace on the detail of this agreement. As a result of the agreement both the union and Royal Mail claim to have agreed a fully funded modernisation plan.

BT dispute[edit]

In early 2010 the CWU balloted all of its BT employed members for strike action over a pay claim for 2010. The ballot result was never announced due to legal challenges but following extensive negotiations CWU reached an agreed settlement on pay with BT. A national ballot of members overwhelmingly agreed the pay deal.

General Secretaries[edit]

Labour Party affiliation[edit]

The CWU has long been affiliated with the Labour Party; for example Alan Johnson, a previous General Secretary, later became a Labour Member of Parliament ultimately holding a number of Cabinet posts including Home Secretary. Since 2001, the CWU has donated over £9million to the Labour Party but relationships became strained over Labour plans to privatise Royal Mail in 2007 and Dave Ward, the CWU's representative on the Labour Party's National Executive Committee announced he was stepping down from this role because he believed it conflicted with the interests of union members.[5] He was replaced by Andy Kerr.

At the CWU Annual Conference 2008 there was much debate about the union's relationship with Labour. It was agreed, and remains union policy that a ballot would be held to cease funds to the party if privatisation of postal services took place. As the privatisation proposal from the Labour government in 2009, the Postal Services Bill, was defeated through the unions campaign and the support of Labour backbenchers, affiliation has remained in place.

Since the election of the Conservative - Lib Dem coalition government the union has sought to re-define its relationship with the Labour Party. In July 2010 the union's National Executive Committee agreed to nominate and support Ed Balls MP for Labour leader in the 2010 leadership ballot. In turn, Ed Balls MP supported the unions Keep The Post Public campaign in the summer of 2010 in opposition of the planned coalition government's intention to privatise Royal Mail.


  1. ^
  2. ^ "Britain's Unions". Trades Unions Congress. Retrieved 2008-08-10. 
  3. ^ "Postal workers back strike action". BBC. 7 June 2007. Retrieved 2007-06-11. 
  4. ^ "Vote 'yes' and strike against Royal Mail attacks!". Workers Power. Retrieved 2007-06-11. 
  5. ^ "CWU rep Dave Ward to stand down from Labour NEC". The Socialist Worker. 1 May 2007. Retrieved 29 October 2009. 

External links[edit]