Tick tock tick tock. Time is moving on. Change is about to catch up with the Royal Mail. What worries me about the postal strike is that the men and women striking now are so poorly led (I might say ‘misled’). Their doctrinaire and backward leadership is taking them up a blind alley.
Postal workers are dangerously underestimating the damage the strike is doing – to their own cause and to their own industry. Maybe it’s understandable. We all lack perspective when looking at our own lives, our own circumstances. But this is why I’m so disappointed in the Communications Unions‘ leadership during the dispute.
Their job is to provide that perspective, to use their not inconsiderable resources to keep the membership informed, to explain to them what’s happening in business, in communications, in the world. Postmen and women go to work in a 200 year-old business with a venerable and apparently solid infrastructure. They work hard, many in ways essentially unchanged in 50 or more years. They’re to be forgiven if they simply don’t see their vulnerability to change.
Every day, though, dozens, hundreds, thousands of businesses and households are deliberately if reluctantly scaling back their reliance on the mail. The office I’m sitting in now is highly dependent on inbound and outbound movement of goods and information. As I write, people around me in the office are planning to move more of the company’s shipping to alternate platforms – permanently.
Much is made these days of ‘tipping points’. There’s a reasonable chance that this strike will turn out (when looking back from a suitable vantage point in the future) to have been the Royal Mail’s tipping point, the moment after which nothing can be done to stop the decline turning into a collapse. And if I’m right it will be the fault of the postal workers’ blinkered leadership.
Unions don’t have to be backward and obstructive. There’s nothing to stop them recreating the radicalism and progressiveness of their early years in the modern context. Absolutely nothing stopping the Communications Union really living up to its modernised name (it used to be the Union of Postal Workers) and producing a coherent response to change that promotes members’ interests while at the same time acknowledging the world outside.
Meanwhile, a Twitter friend says: “I like the postal strike. No bills. No statements. No junk. No conspicuous absence of fun personal letters” and Marketing Week just emailed me this week’s issue as a handy, searchable PDF. Remind me why I get that dopey paper thing every week…