Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/317/11602
United Struggle For A Living Wage
Interviews with London postal workers
London CWU activist
CWU rep at the Fulham office and deputy convenor of the south-west London area
AS COMMUNICATION Workers' Union (CWU) post office members in London prepared to strike in support of their claim for £4,000 London weighting allowance, Angelika Teweleit interviewed a London CWU activist for the socialist.
In the two recent strike ballots, the national ballot went narrowly against strike action but the London weighting ballot was overwhelmingly in favour. What do you think about this?
Management's behaviour had an important effect on the national ballot result. From the top down, their strategy was to intimidate postal workers.
In team meetings the message was: if you go on strike your terms and conditions will be changed.
Royal Mail said they would give a £26 pay rise (4.5%) but over the next two years, 3% this year and 1.5% next year. This is based on reaching targets.
These targets are very difficult to reach and there is no control for us. Management decides if the target has been reached or not.
What is the mood about the London weighting strike?
Postal workers in London are traditionally more militant. But the cost of living is also important.
The cost of living in London has increased by 40% since 1997. But our wages have only risen by 27%.
In the last two years other trade unions like UNISON have been running a campaign for £4,000 London weighting. Greater London Authority statistics show that this is the gap between the cost of living in London and elsewhere.
How can the campaign be won?
We know that with the anti-trade union laws every union gets attacked one by one. That is why we must struggle together.
If we don't, then the danger is that the government and bosses could defeat us.
To win the London weighting battle is very important for us. Our members live on £235 per week.
It is very difficult to pay the mortgage and feed the family with that.
We have to win this dispute. The Royal Mail management want to destroy the union.
They are already saying the CWU is finished. If we lose, it would affect every member of the union.
The Executive Committee of the CWU has promised that they will support every single member during the dispute.
What action is planned?
On 1 October we have our first 24-hour strike. This is a first step, more strikes will come.
We hope to be able to organise strikes together with the other trade unions, like on 16 October with the local government workers in UNISON. The London Weighting Co-ordinating Committee will decide further action.
What else do you think will be necessary to succeed?
A one-day strike can only be the start of the campaign. Our members are not so keen on one-day action because it means that day's mail piles up for the next day's work.
Therefore industrial action will have to be longer to be really effective.
The union must also use the media to answer the lies the government and Royal Mail are telling.
What do you think of the idea to form a committee for London weighting amongst the activists of the different trade unions?
I agree. We have requested help from our general secretary to get all the trade unions together.
This is especially important because Tony Blair and trade and industry minister Patricia Hewitt have given the green light to Allan Leighton (Royal Mail Chairman) to attack the CWU.
What do you think of the idea of a new workers' party, as the Socialist Party argues for?
Yes, there is the need for that. The trade unions must break the link with the Labour Party, it's not representing the working class anymore.
It was created by workers but was destroyed by Tony Blair and his cronies. We in the trade unions have the duty now to organise the struggle.
Some of the new left trade union leaders are saying we need to reclaim the Labour Party.
Do you think that is realistic?
No, not really. The rats have destroyed the ship, which has sunk already.
There are still some good people in the Labour Party. But they must leave and help to create a new workers' party with a socialist programme.
They mustn't waste any more energy and time in the Labour Party. It is easy to create a new party because the working class is looking for an alternative.
This is not only in Britain but all over the world.
Solidarity across London for a living wage
DOMINIC BECK, CWU rep at the Fulham office and deputy convenor of the south-west London area, spoke to the socialist about the dispute. "The mood is strong and confident and I believe 99% of the workforce will support the strike.
"The Royal Mail obviously have contingency plans but the mood is strong enough to resist whatever they try to do. The strike should make the Royal Mail sit up and listen.
"I was disappointed with the national ballot result. But it was a democratic vote.
"It doesn't mean it's the end of the union. It was one ballot which went down but we move on.
"For London the truth is that somewhere along the line we had to make a stand. We're not asking for more than inflation, we just want our pound in London to be the same as a pound in Middlesborough or anywhere else.
"As far as the other unions go, we have to have to try to cut through all the red tape so we can link up to stick together and act together, whether we're the CWU, UNISON or whatever.
"The trade union movement is all about acting together, it's no longer a case of 'it's our fight'.
"It's all our fight across London."
In The Socialist 4 October 2003: