Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/208/8535
Bosses Provoke Postal Strike
FOLLOWING AN official strike at Royal Mail Watford, management provocatively diverted work to Liverpool. When workers refused to sort the work there, seven workers were suspended. As work was diverted around the country up to 50,000 workers came out on strike. Two postal workers describe what happened at their workplaces.
ON 22 May, Watford work was diverted to Nine Elms, south London.
A south London postal worker
We had already modified the sorting procedure to provide extra selections for the area around Watford. We discussed what to do and decided to resume work.
But while union rep Phil Bell was answering questions from the members, he was sent home. At this the workforce walked out.
The manager refused to talk to Carl Maden, Area Processing Rep. Instead he issued a leaflet saying: "We expect Phil Bell to attend at 06:00 on Wednesday 23 May for duty, on the basis that he agrees to work normally and as directed.
"We are asking all of you to come to work this afternoon and undertake your duties fully. This will include breakdowns of work for Liverpool, Watford or any other locations that we are asked to provide."
After five and a half hours and the escalation of the dispute, the management agreed to meet Carl Maden.
WORKERS FROM Whitechapel sorting office were pursued out of the depot and up the road by management.
Angela Mulcahy, Area Processing rep, Whitechapel sorting office, east London
They walked out after being stopped from meeting in the canteen with their union reps. Management claimed they had the right to listen in to the workers' meeting.
Eventually union reps managed to convince management that they were only making things worse but not surprisingly Whitechapel then voted to strike.
When the official 24-hour strike started in Watford, management instructed postal workers in Whitechapel to do a comprehensive sort and breakdown of mail to the Watford area, causing the walkout.
Only weeks before, without consultation, management had abolished comprehensive sorting and imposed "simplified sorting", degrading the service provided by the Whitechapel depot. We had to take industrial action then over that issue.
After John Keggie, postal union, CWU deputy general secretary, fixed a deal with Watford, he promised there would be no victimisation. But management attempted to discipline Angela and two other reps in the London area, prolonging the strike, until the threats were rescinded.
Stop Postal Job Losses
SEVERAL HUNDRED postal workers, socialists and community activists marched through Islington, London, last Saturday against the threatened closure of the Northern District Office (NDO) mail centre. Management want to close the Almeida Street office and transfer the work to Greenford in Middlesex. This will mean a loss of 300 manual jobs from the local economy.
Members of the Communications Workers' Union (CWU) are balloting for strike action against the transfer.
The union's vice-president, Andy Fury, said at a rally after the march that the union's London division will support a strike and would conduct a ballot for action throughout the capital.
Also speaking at the rally was a Liverpool postal worker who said her sorting office has been under threat of closure for the last three years.
Liverpool CWU members and members throughout the North-West had backed the striking Watford postal workers whose action against management-imposed shift arrangements led to massive unofficial strike action throughout the country last week.
To cheers, she said the Liverpool workers had, in seven days of unofficial action, achieved more in terms of working arrangements than in eight months of negotiations.
Islington Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn also spoke against the closure and raised the spectre of Post Office privatisation.
He pointed to the disaster of privatisation of the railways but failed to call for renationalisation and spoke not one word of criticism of the Blair government - whose re-election will lead to Post Office privatisation.
In The Socialist 1 June 2001: