EXCLUSIVE: ‘Today is a statement of our intent to fight back’, CWU’s Dave Ward interview

'500,000 people out on strike, it's a massive statement'

Dave Ward

Dave Ward, General Secretary of the CWU, on the war being waged against workforces and the rebirth of trade unions.  

Today’s landmark synchronised strike day will see half a million people take industrial action across the country.

The TUC has also organised ‘protect the right to strike’ rallies against the Minimum Service Bill, which was passed through the Commons on Monday.  

Dave Ward spoke to LFF about the significance of the day for trade unions and the need for more coordinated action.

“500,000 people out on strike, it’s a massive statement,” said Ward. “It’s a statement of the misery this government has caused on working people and a statement of our intent to fight back.”

“We’d love to be taking part,” he added. “But we are going through a re-ballot and we’ve got to focus on winning that.

“We will be taking further action if we can’t reach an agreement so in the near future I’m sure they’ll be room for coordination as further strikes take place.”

He stated that it was, ‘time for new models of trade unionism’ which emphasise greater cooperation.

“I believe passionately that we have got to connect industrial and political issues, you’ve got to bring them together, and we’ve got to coordinate more action.

“There are many unions with strong agendas at the moment but what we’ve got to do is learn to cooperate more and we’ve got to have common bargaining agendas.

“In every sector of the country we’ve got to set the standard for pay and reverse the race to the bottom to be the race to the top. And we’ve got to lead that fight, and that’s what we are doing.”

Minimum Service Bill

Although CWU members are not listed in the initial sectors nominated for the minimum service rules, Ward called out the anti-strike laws as, ‘an attack on our civil and human rights’.

He said the fight against the legislation would be won on days like today, and outside the walls of parliament.

“We’re not going to win this fight in parliament, we just have to accept that isn’t the reality, but we will win it where it matters, that’s in communities, work places, with our families and friends. We are building a movement here.”

Blasting the proposed law as ‘damaging’ and ‘unnecessary’, Ward said the bill looks to reverse much of the past work acheived by trade unions.

“The most damaging aspect is that it’s an attack on fairness and what we’ve fought for for so many years.

“There’s aspects of it that will remove the rights of people to employment tribunals, so it’s about putting trade unions back in the court because we’re not going to be able to accept the terms of the legislation.

“But we shouldn’t get dis-spirited. We see it as them realising how strong we are and how we are continuing to build our strength, I think in the end people won’t put up with what their trying to do.

“These were key workers and now they’ve been betrayed. In Royal Mail, they’ve waged a war on their own workforce. How is any company going to be successful if it sees its own workers as the enemy.”

He addded that the only answer is to, ‘coordinate the workers in this country even more’.

Trade union rebirth

Ward referenced a ‘rebirth’ of trade unions in recent months with a surge in interest and new sectors becoming unionised.

“It’s fantastic to see all of these young, new trade unionists coming forward. I’ll be happy when I have to retire on the basis that we’ve seen a new generation of trade unionists.”

Although the CWU hasn’t necessarily seen membership increase as a result of strike action, they have seen interesting growth in certain sectors of their membership.

“We represent members in companies that are facing technology changes, automation changes, which is going to be very difficult.

“One sector in our union that’s growing steadily is the tech sector.

“Often workers are coming together from disparate groups of companies. The people who set a lot of the technology that is then used against workers are now organising themselves, because they see how unfair it is that their efforts have been used against workers.”

CWU are currently going through a second ballot with Royal Mail, which Ward believes his members will smash.

“They’ve taken 18 days of strike action and they’re still up for the fight because they know what is at stake. We’re going to keep going until we win a fair settlement for them and for all workers standing together.”

Hannah Davenport is trade union reporter at Left Foot Forward

(Photo credit: Youtube / Sky News)

Left Foot Forward’s trade union reporting is supported by the Barry Amiel and Norman Melburn Trust

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