Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/600/8329
Reports from the postal workers' picket lines
Postal workers reported solid support for the strike across Southampton. At Bitterne the mood was particularly determined in the face of an ongoing dispute over drivers' hours that management want to reduce: "They want to reduce hours by 520. We already have lost over 200 but it's not enough... Management have said they will impose it by executive action."
The scale of bullying to force workers to accept work over agreed overtime has forced CWU members to stand firm in defence of national agreements.
Workers at Bitterne have a lot at stake and know management will need to be forced to back down from their position if national conditions are to be defended.
They know that to fail would be the end of decent jobs and a decent public service.
At the Team Valley delivery office strikers explained how management want to model the Royal Mail on the Dutch post office, which is threatening to sack 10,000 workers if they don't accept a 5% cut in wages and the suspension of Monday services.
At the Gateshead delivery office one of the postal workers said: "At the moment we get a 40 minute meal break at the delivery office. Management now want to impose a split meal break, 20 minutes indoors then the rest of the break outside on delivery."
The mood was summed up by one striker who told us: "The reason I'm on strike is that I don't want to be working here in ten years' time on less pay, working longer hours, and giving a worse service - thinking 'If only we'd have fought to stop this'"
One postal worker told visiting Socialist Party members that he was disgusted with the role played by the Labour Party, not just behind the scenes in this current dispute, but ever since Blair came to power in 1997: "I just can't understand why the CWU are still giving part of our subs over to them."
These remarks were made before we had the chance to offer our own views on the subject.
The 15 pickets at Bristol south delivery office were in a jovial mood, singing and laughing. They had the right to be pleased, only a few managers had gone in to work.
Two of them had to wait sheepishly on the picket line for twenty minutes because they had forgotten their keys!
Talking about the strike they were more serious and determined. They were concerned about the impact on their families - losing pay in the run up to Christmas - but said it was necessary to defeat the attacks against them and the postal service. One picket explained: "If the guys all turned up at their proper time, without bringing their own cars then the post just wouldn't get delivered."
Tony Watts, the rep for Yeovil delivery centre said: "We are not against real modernisation, but will fight against modernisation that means cuts on our pay and conditions. If needed we will be out here for weeks and weeks to come".
Socialist Party members, including Andrew Wilkins, Unite rep for the local Augusta-Westland factory got a very good reception on the picket line.
Socialist Party members visited picket lines across North Staffordshire at Kidsgrove, Newcastle, Burslem, Stoke and Longton with a message of support. There were good turnouts on all picket lines and the mood is very determined. Many postal workers told us that they no longer trust Royal Mail bosses and want concrete results before ending the strikes.
The anger against Peter Mandelson and the need to stop funding New Labour was a constant theme and at Burslem one postal worker offered to help finance a Socialist Party or other left candidate in the general election.
We held campaigning stalls in support of striking postal workers on 30 and 31 October, with 106 copies of The Socialist being sold. Nine papers were sold on the Saturday picket lines.
Swansea's mail service and delivery workers took joint action again on 29 October. Managers attempting to provide a service were mocked by the pickets who know they can't even scratch the surface of work that is done on a normal day.
While strikers were disappointed that Royal Mail were not prepared to reach an agreement there was also a determination to 'stick with the union' to protect jobs and conditions. Bullying, intimidation and harassment are now the norm for Royal Mail management.
Public support was shown in an unusual way after last week's strike. Because delivery workers came out on the same day as the mail centre, when they returned to work they were continuously asked why were they working when the rest of the country were out on strike.
Rob Williams, Linamar Unite convener, presented the pickets with a £500 promised donation for the CWU strike fund from his shop stewards committee, which will hopefully be the first of many from the trade union movement if this dispute continues.
The strikers were grateful for the solidarity and support of Socialist Party members and Socialist Students who visited the picket line throughout the morning.
The mood was upbeat outside Ilford delivery office in London, chatting about what's next, the government's agenda, why rallies would be good, as well as a strike fund - the north London football derby too, of course - all fuelled with tasty samosas.
The strike was solid, with just a couple going in overnight. A few casuals were working, threatened with no work if they struck - putting them in a difficult position, understood by the strikers. If the dispute drags on, however, some way of winning their support could become significant.
Again, the strikers commented on the public support they get on their rounds. In fact, they were fed up with having to explain why they were not striking last Thursday and Friday. So, the united national strike days this Friday and Monday were welcomed.
When we set up our regular Socialist Party petition stall we reported to the strikers the high level of support. If the strike is still on next time we're out, we will aim for joint activity which will raise money for a strike fund and build further public support.
On the picket line at Merthyr Tydfil delivery office, pickets told The Socialist: "Crozier and the rest of the executive and management are spouting about the recession and how there's a pay freeze for everyone. But Crozier has awarded himself £ millions in bonuses... Of course, without the recession, he should have had more... We all have to tighten our belts.
"We've said to the managers, 'It would be nice to see you on strike with us'. Their union, Unite, is contemplating balloting for strike action themselves. If we lose this fight, their jobs have gone, the same as ours."
Caerphilly Socialist Party
"There's guys who have worked here for 30 years with no trouble from the managers - until this year when the strikes started in June. Now we're getting threats constantly. I've lost count of the number of times I've been threatened with having pay docked." So said one striker at the Twelvetrees picket.
Bullying management is one of the main discussions on the picket line. And to illustrate the point, on one strike day an incident occurred before my eyes.
At around 6.30am, a driver who was finishing his night shift pulled his truck up to the picket line. He had just finished a ten and a half hour shift, taking mail from the mail centre to the delivery offices.
When he pulled up at the last delivery office the strike had started, so the gates were closed and the manager turned him away. But when he rang in to his own manager he was told that because he hadn't made that delivery, he would lose the entire night's pay.
The pickets were angry and determined to sort this out when they got back in to work. But they said it's not unusual.
Support from Aslef
Lee Barron, Midlands secretary of the Communication Workers Union (CWU), was the guest speaker at the meeting of Aslef district council number six.
Lee gave a compelling account of the current issues explaining that Royal Mail is attempting to unilaterally impose change, that there is a systematic plan to by-pass and de-recognise the CWU.
The CWU is calling for a long-term plan for Royal Mail, for the government to pick up the pension fund liability and to drop plans for privatisation.
Unanimous support for the CWU was agreed at the meeting, with Aslef branches being urged to contact local CWU branches to offer assistance.
Support letter from Italian postal workers
Using the excuse of a fall in postal traffic and future liberalisation of the European market, the Italian Post Office has declared 10,665 job losses: 6,330 delivery jobs and 3,335 office, sorting and transport jobs.
The reorganisation would mean: a longer working day, increased overtime working, more rounds on foot and less by moped, other so-called innovations.
Amateurs who are putting everything at risk? No, supporters of the free market.
Italian postal workers united in struggle with Royal Mail workers say 'No'.
We are united in solidarity with our colleagues in the Royal Mail who today are striking to defend their jobs and against the cuts and 'liberalisation' which the market imposes.
We condemn the attempt of Royal Mail management to get round the strike by employing 30,000 temporary workers in place of strikers.
Their battle is our battle. Forward to Victory.
National Coordinating Committee PRC Postal Workers' section
In The Socialist 3 November 2009:
Socialist Party workplace news
Socialist Party statement
Socialist Party news and analysis
Socialist Party workplace news
International socialist news and analysis