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Picket line round-up
Postal workers defy Royal Mail attacks
LAST WEEK saw two 48-hour strikes by 130,000 postal workers belonging to the Communications Workers Union (CWU). Below are some of the many reports of CWU picket lines around the country from Socialist Party members.
Postal workers are locked in battle with Royal Mail, which is owned and backed by Brown's government. They face savage attacks on conditions, trade union rights and the very future of a publicly owned universal postal service.
Following the collapse of talks with an intransigent Royal Mail, the CWU has organised a rolling programme of 24-hour strikes commencing Monday 15 October.
SOCIALIST PARTY and Socialist Students members visited the picket line at the Mail Centre in Exeter twice, at midday and at midnight on Friday 5 October. Only six workers in this large mail centre scabbed, with the vast majority of workers solid in supporting this strike.
When we raised the issue of the need for a new workers' party, pickets expressed firm support for this and are mystified why the CWU leadership continues to fund New Labour - who are behind the privatisation, cuts and job losses in the postal service and public services in general.
In Barnstaple the strike was solid. In Teignmouth and Newton Abbot, Socialist Party strike leaflets and ten copies of the socialist were snapped up by postal workers.
Many pickets expressed anger at the media and the bullying attitude of some local managers. Tempers rose with the arrival of 'scab' agency workers. At one point management threatened to call the police to arrest the socialist's reporter.
Strikers felt that they were in a powerful position with the run-up to Christmas. However they recognise that they will face hardship. During discussions the idea of setting up a South Devon Support Group was brought up. The need to build links with other unions and members of the public was seen as vital. This would then link up with other groups in Exeter and North Devon.
Jim Lowe, Devon Socialist Party
"THERE ARE more people on strike now than the last time we came out"… "We're playing for high stakes now"… said workers on the Filton picket line.
The management 'counter-revolution' on the shop floor if postal workers don't win will be far reaching; this was instinctively understood.
Some pickets said that at the next CWU conference the leadership would find it very hard to ask members to fund Labour any more. There was talk of a political break now, and the need for a new workers' party was mentioned even before I raised the idea.
The need to go for all-out national action is being carefully weighed up as a tactic by members after the planned selective sectional actions.
Postal workers are asking for workplaces and colleges to make links with them and take up collections.
I explained about the setting up of the National Shop Stewards Network. As a result there may be a postal rep present at the next NSSN meeting in Bristol.
Steve Wootton, Bristol
OUT OF 129 staff only a handful of managers and a couple of casuals are working in the E14 delivery office on Burdett Road, London. Four managers go out on delivery and the only place they go to is the big corporations in Canary Wharf.
The dispute is biting hard. "There's still 100,000-200,000 items left from last week's one-day strike. It'll take weeks to clear the backlog from this strike and they can't do it without us," a picket said.
Strikers are frustrated that the media paints the whole dispute as about pay.
THE STRIKE was solid in Sheffield with only the odd one or two going in to work.
One crossed the picket line at the Eccleshall Road office only to be told by management to take a bag out. He refused and walked back out, much to the amusement of the pickets.
Speculation about a general election has provoked a lot of discussion on the picket lines about New Labour. One postal worker, Craig, told us that Brown taking Thatcher into No.10 was the final straw for him and he'd finally torn up his Labour Party card.
The CWU branch secretary reported that at a recent branch meeting of 100, many members were demanding to opt out of the political levy due to their disgust with the Labour government refusing to intervene in the dispute.
Jacko, the CWU rep at Sheffield CDO, said that all the public sector unions should get together against the government. Locally the PCS civil servants' union has approached the CWU to organise a joint public sector rally.
Gary, a rep at the Brightside Lane Sorting Office, reported that there were 2 million items of undelivered mail stuck in the Mail Centre, and that's before the post boxes are emptied on Wednesday. He thought that the impact of the strike on the economy would force the government to pressure Royal Mail to negotiate.
PICKET LINES at the mail centre in Coventry were solid. A CWU rep told the socialist: "The strike looks very solid. When the strike started at noon it was chaos, with managers trying to cover the work. Members have been vigilant, waiting for this moment. It is clear management have been hit extremely hard.
"Members are showing support, trucks are being turned away. There is great public support. People remember that it is always posties that will not cross other workers' picket lines."
MEMBERS OF Reading Socialist Party visited picket lines in Reading and Basingstoke, where several copies of the socialist were sold. In Basingstoke over 98% of postal workers were on strike.
On the local radio station postal workers were accused of being "nothing more than glorified paper boys". Pickets said they were going to contact the radio station to get their DJs to carry round heavy sacks all day and then say if the job is so easy.
John Gillman and Neil Adams
ALEC THRAVES spoke to JOHN EDWARDS, CWU branch official, south west Wales's branch, on the Swansea picket line.
"We've had almost 100% support. We are solid in order to protect our conditions, protect our pensions and also to protect our wages.
"It's not just about pay; it's about flexibility and particularly our pensions. When I retire I will lose three thousand pounds a year.
"There's tremendous anger and frustration amongst the members, it's as if Royal Mail want to shut the business down altogether and the intimidation and harassment is unbelievable. This is a dispute we cannot lose."
NO QUESTION about it, striking Church Hill office postal workers in Walthamstow, north-east London, are determined to fight to defend their conditions. They feel like they have no choice, but also they know that they have the power. "Doing the job properly" ie working to rule, and withholding their goodwill will jam up Royal Mail's works completely.
Ian Broad has worked at Church Hill for nine years and said that more workers were asking how exactly to "do the job properly". He said workers had seen their goodwill abused for so long, that they have had enough.
Bert, another worker at Church Hill, said that Royal Mail's attacks will mean a major loss in pay for him and that he and others will have to look for other jobs. He said that everyone was sick of management people coming in and telling them how the job should be done.
Mark said that whereas previously people wouldn't necessarily have been that bothered about where they put their 'X' at election time, this dispute was bringing it all to the fore. Brown's backing of Leighton and Crozier made them sick but then the problem is the other parties are no better.
In The Socialist 11 October 2007:
Socialist Party NHS campaign
What we think
War and terrorism
Socialist Party news and analysis
Socialist Party feature
International socialist news and analysis
Workplace news and analysis