THE stand-off between Isle of Man Post Office management and union officials has escalated as both sides play a war of words over the significance of a previous agreement.
As the threat of strike action looms, the Communication Workers’ Union admitted this week it did not have a signed copy of the 2009 pay agreement, which it says shows the post office pledged to reflect profits with a pay rise.
The post office has called on the union to produce a signed copy, with chairman Alan Crowe MLC saying he didn’t think a copy had been signed and that there was no evidence in board minutes to suggest otherwise.
The CWU say the Post Office signed up to the 2009 pay agreement, which included a pledge to ‘promote the concept of everyone working for each other and for benefit of the business and its employees having a share in its success’.
Another aim was to ‘maintain reasonable earnings expectations’.
CWU assistant secretary Terry Pullinger said he didn’t remember the agreement being signed and said ‘secretarial weakness’ could explain why the union could not find a signed copy.
But he said there was ‘sufficient evidence’ through a ‘full email and paper trail’ to show an agreement had been made, and denied that the lack of a signed agreement undermined the union’s position.
And he asked why other changes outlined in the agreement – including a 2.5 per cent pay rise and operational changes – had been implemented if there hadn’t been an agreement.
‘These silly management games are not helping to resolve the current pay dispute,’ he said.
‘We hope that Isle of Man Post Office management will resolve their filing issues and return to talks with an offer of a deserved reward for postal workers for their efforts.
‘Tough, responsible, meaningful and factual negotiations hold no fear for us and that is what we are seeking.’
When asked whether he was aware of a signed copy of the agreement, Mr Crowe said: ‘No, I have checked the board minutes.
‘We have adhered to everything in the 2009 pay agreement – a 2.5 per cent pay rise and changes to the pension fund.
‘The only thing that seems to be the problem is an argument about profit sharing – employees sharing in its success.
‘There is nothing in the board minutes or in any other document.’
Mr Crowe said no attempt had been made to contact former chief executive Bill Chacksfield, whose name is on the union’s copy of the agreement, to clarify whether it had been signed.
He added: ‘Sharing in success is a long-term aim but the [public sector] pay freeze has over-ridden that.
‘The real issue is the future success of the post office.’
The post office showed the Manx Independent a copy of a booklet the CWU sent to members informing them of the proposed 2009 pay agreement.
Chief executive Mike Kelly said: ‘A copy of the booklet produced by the CWU sent to their members to inform them of the proposed pay agreement is attached.
‘This contains no reference to staff receiving a share in the post office’s success and therefore fails to support CWU’s claim.’
Ballot papers have been sent to 272 CWU members – out of a total of about 450 postal workers.
It asks whether postal workers were ‘prepared to take part in industrial action consisting of a strike’.
Postal workers have until March 16 to vote.
The CWU has urged members to vote in favour of strike action and has hit out at bosses for refusing a rise or going to arbitration.