Archive article from The Socialist Issue 518
Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/2008/518/np2493.htm
Burslem postal workers march back to work
At 6.15am on 24 January, Burslem postal workers marched proudly behind their banner back into work more united than when they walked out on strike six weeks before. They were applauded back in by the suspended 12 workers who formed a guard of honour. Socialist Party members and our banner were where they have been since day one - alongside Burslem postal workers.
Originally the workers walked out on unofficial action in response to management's victimisation, later they won overwhelming support for official action through a ballot. They have now voted to go back to work after agreeing a deal with Royal Mail.
The main demand was for an independent review of all the 12 instead of this applying just to the elected Communication Workers Union (CWU) reps. Whilst a guaranteed commitment has not been won from Royal Mail management on this issue, an important "independent element" has been included in the deal at the appeals level which opens the door to a return of all the suspended workers.
Royal Mail has accepted that there will be no reduction in annual leave as a result of the strike action and no further disciplinary cases against postal workers as a result of the dispute. Royal Mail and the CWU will also carry out an independent review of industrial relations at Burslem where in a recent Royal Mail survey 80% said they had been bullied by management.
However, postal workers at Burslem have no illusions in Royal Mail bosses. Despite this deal being recommended by CWU deputy general secretary, Dave Ward, regional secretary, Lee Barron and the suspended 12, a significant minority still voted against going back to work until all victimised workers were reinstated. The pressure must be kept on the CWU national leadership to ensure that they deliver.
Royal Mail management has failed in one of their key aims at Burslem which was to remove the union reps from the workplace and create a subservient workforce. What they didn't expect was that the workforce would walk out with them!
A partial victory has been secured at Burslem but the struggle is not over and will continue until all 12 and previously sacked Dave Condliffe are back in the workplace. Victimisation is not, however, confined to Burslem. It is part of a national strategy by Royal Mail supported by the government to soften up the workforce in preparation for privatisation.
At the Tomb Street depot in Belfast, 74% have voted for action to defend two victimised CWU reps. In Bristol, workers have voted to strike in defence of victimised workers. Suspensions or sackings have taken place in South London, Oxford and South West London.
At the CWU rally in support of Burslem strikers, Dave Ward said: "We will not leave people isolated and we will spread the action if necessary - even if that means pulling out of national agreements with the employer."
So, why is the leadership continuing negotiations with Royal Mail on "modernisation" and "flexibility" whilst postal workers are being victimised at the whim of Royal Mail bosses?
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