But even if these are accepted, the deal will contain all the changes Royal Mail has been trying to foist on postal workers since the dispute started. On the questions of wages, pensions and working conditions, it would set postal workers and the service on the road to casualisation, job cuts and, eventually, privatisation.
Pay and pensions
First, the pay offer is nowhere near the breakthrough the TV and papers are making it out to be. The 5.4 per cent pay "rise" will not be backdated, but only apply to the last six months of the year (October to March). It is therefore only worth 2.7 per cent over 12 months, less than the rate of inflation and a real cut in our spending power.
Next year we will get another cut, as the 1.5 per cent "rise" will certainly not keep up with climbing prices. And, as for the lump sum of £175, that will not cover the money lost through the later start times.
In short, a pay cut remains a pay cut.
Second, although the deal may defer any final agreement on our pensions till January, the "reforms" remain on the table: the pensionable age may be raised from 60 to 65 (after 2011) and the final salary scheme transformed into a career average scheme.
If these changes go through - and, by separateing the pensions from the other changes, they are more likely to - we will be worse off.
But the real sting is in the tail: closing the scheme to new entrants. This would create a two-tier workforce before very long - with more and more posties on the worse pension agreement. What if Royal Mail comes back and attacks our pensions again? Would the new entrants, who will have been badly let down by such a concession, strike to defend the old pensions?
We doubt it. That's why we shouldn't agree to any divisive deal now.
Flex till we break
Finally, if the deal accepts management's right to trial new flexible working practics and to reach local agreements that undermine national conditions, it will be a sell-out!
In fact, Royal Mail continues to go on the offensive, taking "executive action", even while the "deal" is on the table. On Monday, they will impose new shift patterns at network and processing centres.
We all know what total flexibility means: having our shift patterns changed from week to week, being told where to work and what job to do on a daily basis, doing "longs and shorts" with no overtime payment, covering for those on the sick, again for no extra money. It will result in full-time posts being turned into part-time ones and 40,000 job cuts.
It was precisely this kind of executive action at a local level that led to bitter strikes from Belfast to Stoke to Manvers before the national dispute kicked off, and to wildcat strikes in London, Liverpool and west Yorkshire this week. Are we really to give up on a national strike, which Royal Mail clearly cannot cope with, and return to local strikes, which can never be as effective because managers are bused in from surrounding areas to scab?
The endpoint of such tactics would be a broken up service with differing terms and conditions. The CWU would no longer be a national union, but a federation of local unions. Royal Mail would be one step closer to being parcelled up by function and area... and privatised. In fact, this is Tory MP John Redwood's proposal, and we all know what Gordon Brown does with Tory policies - he copies them!
Where's the democracy?
It is truly disgraceful that, for the second time in the dispute, the CWU leaders - Billy Hayes and Dave Ward - have called off the strikes, just as they have begun to bite, and entered into secret talks. Members have been left in the dark, while managers have read out bits of the "secret" deal to us. The BBC and newspapers were told the details, but not the workers, whose jobs are on the line.
The fact that Royal Mail had to go to the High Court to ban our strikes showed that the bosses were running scared. But instead of defying the biased judges and keeping the pressure on, our leaders retreated and left those who had to take unofficial action - in order to defend the union and members' conditions - isolated.
Now we may have to vote on a take-it-or-leave-it offer, which amounts to a sell-out on every issue. Worse, the Postal Executive may recommend it, while we have to wait for a ballot paper to arrive... in the post.
A postal ballot on a new offer is not legally required. Even the BBC could see that this bizarre decision means that the 250 million items of undelivered post would have to be cleared in order for the ballot on the deal to be processed!
Presumably, according to this so-called "democratic" process, if we turn down the deal, we would have to strike again in November. With no existing backlog. With more scab agency replacements. With further scab "mail centres" to add to the ones up and running in north London, Leeds and Bristol.
The message from the CWU leadership would be clear: agree to the deal or restart the battle from the worst vantage point imaginable.
What can we do?
We can send a very different message back to the leadership, though. We can stop the sell-out.
The first and most obvious thing to do is not to allow management to victimise our activists, to derecognise reps, and to impose changes by "executive action". The wildcat strikes in Scotland, Liverpool, London and Yorkshire are our form of "executive action" and the only tactic available to stop the retreat by our leaders being turned into a rout on the ground. Let's support the wildcats and boycott any redirected work.
If they impose new shifts at the mail centres on Monday, the workers have every right to walk out, get solidarity from other members, and official support from the union.
But why should the existing programme of rolling strikes be suspended? Metronet workers on the London Underground showed the power of striking while a deal is being hammered out. They won far more concessions by "walking and talking" at the same time. So should we. By continuing the action, we will keep the post piling up, so, if we do reject the deal, we do not have to build up the backlog from scratch again.
We have been kept in the dark too long. We could organise meetings in every workplace and branch to discuss the deal, where executive members for and against the deal are invited to put their case and everyone gets a chance to speak. That's real democracy - not a postal ballot, where we all vote, isolated from each other in our homes, and only hearing one side of the story from the TV, papers, our own executive and gloating managers.
But we need a national response - quickly. The best would be an emergency delegate conference to hear both sides of the debate about the deal, decide democratically whether to support it or not, and, if not, hammer out a plan of industrial action. Amazingly, we have never had a say in what action we could take: escalating strikes, an all-out strike, unity with other unions, and so on.
But, if the leadership will not call such a conference - and they have behaved disgracefully up until now - then we, the rank and file opponents of a sell-out, should.
Rank and file movement
The minority on the postal executive, plus the branches and offices that have taken wildcat strike action and any other branches and members, who want to fight on, could call an unofficial conference. Here we could discuss how to spread the "no" vote message across the country, so that every postie gets to hear the pitfalls hidden in the deal. We could also discuss how to spread the wildcat action to other offices, and what to do the next time management try it on.
Finally, there is an urgent need to discuss what has gone wrong with the CWU and how we can make our union more democratic and more effective in defending our jobs and conditions. We in Workers Power believe this would involve launching a rank and file movement to campaign to
o Make every official subject to regular election and instant recall by the members - no more "executive action" by the bureaucrats
o Pay all officials the average wage of those they represent - no more careerists, angling to become Labour MPs
o Give control of all strikes and negotiations to the members who are in dispute - no more secret talks, no more calling off our action.
We can still win this dispute. Neither Royal Mail nor the government could not cope with escalating national strike action, especially if they knew it would lead to an all-out indefinite strike. That's why they ran to the courts. That's why they are trying to prevent us linking up with other public sector workers. And that's why we should press on to victory.
Homepage: http://www.workerspower.com www.fifthinternational.org