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An Open Letter To CWU Members

Derek Keenan of the Dublin Postal Drivers’ Branch of the Independent Workers' Union has penned an open letter to the Communications Workers Union. 

On behalf of the Dublin Postal Drivers’ Branch of the Independent Workers’ Union I wish to make a few observations regarding our campaign for Union recognition and respond directly to the comments of your General Secretary, Mr Steve Fitzpatrick, in relation to same. While we had no intention of revisiting any of these issues we feel compelled, given that Mr Fitzpatrick seems intent on disseminating falsehoods that need to be corrected.

Arising from a decision of the National Executive Council to dissolve our Branch, on the 12th of January 2019, our members overwhelmingly rejected this decision and endorsed the Branch Committees proposal to secede from the CWU and to join the IWU.

A few things must be highlighted in respect of the NEC Rationalisation Sub Committee and the consultation process to which Mr Fitzpatrick refers and claims we played no active part in.

Firstly, members of the Sub Committee tasked with making the decision to dissolve our Branch were from Branches that stood to benefit from that break up

Secondly, our Branch categorically stated that things could Not be left as they were and sought the full implementation of an ICTU report, endorsed by the NEC but ignored by all parties but ourselves, dealing with the matter.

Finally, the belief of our members that the process was simply window dressing for a decision already made was fully vindicated by damning documenteary evidence from a circular released by Mark Graham, Head of Employee Relations, An Post. Within this circular dated 11/09/18, Mr Graham, referring to his hope for a singular Branch structure within Dublin Parcel Operations, remarked: “The Company understands the Union is favourably considering this at its Rationalisation Sub Committee.”

The circular predates any engagement with our Branch on the matter by some two weeks. So it seems that the company, or the enemy as Mr Fitzpatrick occasionally likes to refer to them as, were made aware of our faith before the consultation process had even begun. I think any right-minded trade unionist would find that utterly reprehensible and treacherous. This is not the kind of Trade Union that our members wish to belong.

Within this context an EGM was convened in order to discuss the decision and either reject it or accept it. In advance of this meeting the Branch met with the Deputy General Secretary, Mr Sean McDonagh, to discuss the NEC decision, a meeting that Mr Fitzpatrick did not bother to attend. The discussion with Mr McDonagh was robust and frank and to his credit he clearly set out our options as follows: to accept the report in full, to seek some minor amendments in respect of it, or to go and I quote “Do your own thing which would be a disaster for ye.”

Contrary to Mr Fitzpatrick’s claims there was no intimidation of members, on the night of our EGM signed withdrawal forms from the CWU were held for a period of two weeks allowing sufficient time for reflection by members who may have had second thoughts. A small number of individuals did indeed change their minds for a myriad of personal reasons and the Branch fully respects their right to do so.

Our membership is over two times larger than Mr Fitzpatrick has suggested and will grow further into the future. Connivance between the company and the CWU has frustrated member attempts to leave the Union as withdrawal forms were passed between payroll and CWU HQ without ever being acted upon: a complaint has been forwarded to the Data Protection Commissioner in respect of this. Furthermore many of our members were unable to make the transition owing to pre-existing Health issues, which have made it prohibitively difficult to obtain alternative Life and Specified Illness Cover independently. These members are with us in spirit and will do nothing to impede our endeavours into the future.

In respect of Branch funds we have very clearly stated in correspondence with Mr Fitzpatrick that we accepted fully that monies were owed back to central funds. However the vast bulk of our funds are made up of distinct social and sick fund levies that belong to all in benefit members of the CWU Dublin Postal Drivers’ Branch on the 12th of January 2019. Mr Fitzpatrick accepted this reality in recent correspondence and he suggested we set a time frame to establish the numbers staying within the CWU and those joining the IWU in order to assess the exact monies proper to the CWU central fund.

In such circumstances we find it disgusting that Mr Fitzpatrick suggested potential illegal use of said monies by our Branch. Any delay on our part in addressing this situation faster arises from the fact that our Treasurer is undergoing treatment for cancer and is not presently well enough to deal with the accounts. Notwithstanding this, our accounts will be fully up to date in the coming weeks and the matter will be brought to a satisfactory conclusion for all concerned.

Mr Fitzpatrick makes reference to the current ‘tales’ being told by our Branch in respect of our dissatisfaction with the ‘service’ provided by CWU HQ and claims that this was not reflected in our contributions at recent Conference or Seminars nor was it reflected within our AGM Report of 2018 which, Mr Fitzpatrick claims expressed ‘profound satisfaction’ with CWU HQ.

Let me be unequivocal in saying that our Branch always enjoyed good relations with all National Officers and support staff within the CWU. In the letter informing Mr Fitzpatrick of our decision to secede from the CWU we thanked all those who had been of assistance throughout the years.

Notwithstanding this our Branch had been highly critical of the industrial strategy adopted by the CWU while welcoming the progressives steps forward in the political sphere. We openly campaigned for a no vote in the recent ballot on pay within An Post, were highly critical of the role of HQ in the FTE reductions across Dublin and our members also took part in unofficial industrial actions in defence of our Owner Driver members arising from a decision at HQ level to remove valuable work from their streams without any consultation with our Branch. I suggest Mr Fitzpatrick actually reads the Branch 2018 AGM Report where such criticisms, among others, are there in black and white. Moreover I suggest he ask the Deputy General Secretary about the robust contributions of our members at our AGM concerning same and my speech directly criticising Union HQ on these matters.

IWU Recognition

Multiple Unions peacefully co-exist within many companies, particularly within the Semi-State sector. Industrial action by its very nature seeks to disrupt the normal flow of business activity within the given company. It is regrettable that the CWU would align itself with An Post in communicating a right-wing trope, which portrays the workers in dispute as the problem and not the company’s unwillingness to sit down and talk.

What is even more disappointing is Mr Fitzpatrick’s faux concern for the women working in the Mails Centres, presenting them as weak and particularly prone to intimidation from our pickets. Released on the eve of International Women’s Day this is an insult to their dignity and tenacity and does not compute with our experience of these colleagues. The one thing Mr Fitzpatrick does get correct in his statement is that these women are the lowest paid workers. Perhaps the next time he is sitting down with the company to discuss how to marginalise the IWU he might find the time to give this issue the attention it deserves.

Given that our Union gave an assurance to the CWU, in writing, that we would absolutely Not impede any indoor staff from attending work it is disappointing, though not surprising, that Mr Fitzpatrick never bothered to communicate this message to his members on the ground; instead he chose to use it as a propaganda tool but it fooled no one.

While are proposed action was ultimately withdrawn we will not be going away. Our members demand a voice in their workplace through the Union of their choice.

In Solidarity,
Derek Keenan
Dublin Postal Drivers’ Branch
IWU

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Anthony McIntyre

Former IRA prisoner, spent 18 years in Long Kesh. Free Speech advocate, writer, historian, humanist, and researcher.

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