RETURNING TO work at 5.15am after their second 48-hour strike, postal workers at Plaistow delivery office in east London were told by management that their start time was now 6am. In response to this unilateral imposition of new working rosters, the 30 or so delivery workers walked out. Mickey, John and Patrick spoke to Dave Carr for the socialist.
"We came back after our second strike expecting to start to clear the backlog of post and instead we were confronted with new start times. It's a deliberate provocation.
"It's all about bringing in flexible working. We're one of the test areas for the new working arrangements. It's now a case of having no set working pattern, no routine but instead 'you'll work as and when we need you to'.
"It also means that the early start payments (£6 a week) have been scrapped. Taken over a year this will save Royal Mail a lot of money. It'll also mean that the public will get their letters delivered later. As a matter of fact two years ago there should've been a work review because of the increase in the number of new houses in the area. This was never carried out."
The pickets were also angered by the rumour that they would be sacked and then re-employed on these new contracts.
Another bone of contention is the portrayal by the national media that the current 'job and finish' working arrangements mean that postal workers have an easy time.
"None of us here takes a break, we're hard working. We start before 6am and take our tea and coffee on the go. We don't finish 'two hours early'. If Royal Mail had a clocking-in system then they would see how hard we work… It's all goodwill on our part but management want to take more and more concessions from us."
"One of us was accused by management as 'working too slowly' but they failed to prove it. In fact they withdrew the 'walks test' because it would've shown we do more work than we're contracted to do."
The pickets were well aware that standing behind Crozier and Royal Mail in attacking working conditions was prime minister Gordon Brown.
"The last thing we want is for Gordon Brown to step in and tell us 'go back to work'. Or that we've got to make Royal Mail 'more competitive'. How can we compete with the likes of TNT when it's us who are delivering their work! Even the TNT boss said his company wasn't interested in doing deliveries.
"No-one else has the same infrastructure as Royal Mail. And unlike BT or gas our infrastructure isn't telephone lines or gas pipes but us!"
At that point the CWU rep reported that depots in north and south east London had also walked out. A small cheer went up on the picket line.