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From The Socialist newspaper, 22 September 2009

Warrington mail centre

Over 200 drivers were on official strike last week at the Royal Mail's north west regional distribution centre in a dispute over imposed changes to shift patterns.

Andy Ford, Warrington trades council

Private hauliers and agency drivers were crossing the CWU picket line, although some lorries did turn back. Several agency drivers told pickets that they had been told they faced the sack if they did not cross. On the other hand some have apparently been told that if they cross the picket lines they will be guaranteed another two months work.

"I don't want to be here mate, but I'll be sacked if I don't do it", pleaded one agency driver, but he got short shrift from angry CWU members.

They called: "Go on, just get off. We're fighting for our future here."

One worker, who did not want to be named, explained the background. "Every year the work patterns and shifts are reviewed, and the changes are negotiated.

"But this year when they didn't get agreement they have just gone for 'executive action', no agreement, nothing. They want to put the names in a hat, and assign the shifts - earlies, lates or nights - more or less at random. And if your name's not picked in the three shifts, then you'll be on a float shift, covering any shift they say. We run on seniority here - as you stay here longer, you can move to the shifts that suit you. And they want to rip all that up."

"It's going back to the old days, like on the docks," said another picket. "At least under our old system you could plan ahead, you could have a life, but they just want to assign you wherever and whenever they want."

The effect of the anti-union laws are being felt: "Royal Mail don't want to settle the dispute, all they do is look for legal angles to trip the union up".

Strikers complained of petty bullying in the depot. "The job's nothing like it was. We used to have a bit of banter. Now you just turn up and go through the motions. The managers here have been told to rule with a big stick. But it's management out of business college, not the real world.

"They flooded the place out with agency workers, so they went over budget, now they're trying to make the money back off us."

The strikers were determined and bitter. "The way we've been treated is unbelievable - after 23, 25, 28 year's service. It's all changed."

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In The Socialist 22 September 2009:

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Vestas

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Future Jobs Fund - massaging the figures


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