A battle for the future of Royal Mail

Postal worker

After eleven days of strike action, the turnout and resolve of the Communication Workers Union (CWU) pickets is as strong as ever.

It is increasingly looking like the strike will have to be a prolonged one. Hopes of it all being settled in the run-up to Christmas, with the action on Black Friday/Cyber Monday and the pre-Christmas period, seem to be waning by the day.

‘Simple Simon’, as CEO Thompson is known on the CWU Facebook group, and his board look set on ruining Christmas for everyone but themselves.

He has been claiming that strike breakers have increased by 84% in some areas, which is an absolute joke. Maybe four people have worked instead of three out of hundreds.

Although the exact numbers are not fully known by the union at this point, it is clear to us that the vast majority, if not all, of the work going out on strike days is done by managers and agency or temporary workers.


Keir Starmer’s Labour Party finally came out this week and called for a full audit of the accounts and the reason for the losses Royal Mail have made in the last year.

But Starmer should come off the fence – if he promised to enact the policy agreed at Labour Party conference to renationalise Royal Mail, that would put huge pressure on the Royal Mail bosses and their political backers, the Tory government.

A lot of the losses are due to the tapering-off of the pandemic: the loss of Covid test-kit revenue, and a decrease in online ordering, caused by both real-life shopping and a crisis in spending power of ordinary people.

However, the £560 million awarded to shareholders, and the millions wasted on agency workers, are clearly the biggest factors in the alleged £1 million a day losses. There has also been considerable investment in new parcel-sorting hubs that has come out of the profits.

All of this clearly calls for an opening of the books, in order to halt the finger being pointed at the strike days.


Meanwhile, to add fuel to the fire, management in most areas have been trying to provoke unofficial action by attacking the most militant and visible reps, with what appear to be trumped-up charges.

In east London, our two most vocal reps have been indefinitely suspended in a bid to provoke us into walking out unofficially (something we have a strong tradition of) which, of course, would be used to stop our official action.

We’re already taking official action, which is being escalated and will likely need to be further stepped up. Defending our reps against victimisation must be added to the demands of the dispute.

Thankfully, we have not taken the bait and are all being extra-careful to not do anything that can be used against picket lines. This is the safest tactic we can follow due to the extreme nature of management’s vicious measures.

Posties were outraged when they saw a joint statement by senior Royal Mail management and the managers’ union CMA, which is part of Unite. It appeared to show that managers would receive bonuses for implementing the attacks on CWU members.

Postal workers welcomed the statement by Unite general secretary Sharon Graham and national chair Tony Woodhouse repudiating this. The CWU tweeted their thanks to the Unite leadership.

Many of us believe that Unite should now join with the CWU in a united fight to save Royal Mail from the wrecking agenda of Thompson and Co. The jobs of all Royal Mail staff are on the line.

With two days of action in the pipeline every week till Christmas, many of our members are feeling the pinch. That’s why the union needs to really step up a mass appeal for strike funds.

We don’t want posties to feel they have no choice but to think about looking for alternative employment or consider the meagre £6,000 and nine-month redundancy payoff.

Some of the talk is that even if there are any jobs left after the onslaught, they may not be jobs worth going back to. What an indictment of the behaviour of a board, in charge of what is seen as a public service, towards posties considered key workers during the pandemic.

Destruction of Royal Mail

Thompson claimed this week that we are not a letters but a parcel company now, and so we have to compete with the likes of Evri and Amazon. The proposed introduction of owner-drivers in Royal Mail would mean the beginning of the end of the six-day letters service and a decent job for hundreds of thousands.

It could double the number of redundancies, from the currently suggested 10,000.

If they pay 50p per parcel we will have to race around to deliver 20 an hour, at the very least, and letters, along with non-driving staff, will be pushed to the side. What then of the NHS letters, Christmas cards and bank cards people are waiting for?

We are fighting for the future of this service now, despite our top management being intent on asset-stripping. So we stay strong and continue into the new year.

On 9 December, posties from across the country are coming to central London for a demonstration that should be a “sea of red uniforms”, as CWU leader Dave Ward put it. Transport will be organised from most areas and we expect bumper crowds.

CWU pickets said:

About the backlog at Mansfield: “Inside it’s up to the rafters. A couple of agency staff are going in, they won’t even scratch the surface”.

Paul Tooley-Okonkwo, Mansfield Socialist Party

Pickets at Northfield delivery office in Birmingham also reported a huge backlog of mail. “One casual left the depot with 80 parcels and came back with 56!” We were told another put a Bradford postcode into his satnav instead of a Birmingham one, and ran out of petrol on the M1 on route to Bradford!

Clive Walder, Birmingham South West Socialist Party

Bishop Auckland posties said: “They want to get rid of us. Managers are only bothered about the tracked parcels because they get a bonus for them, they don’t care about letters or other post.”

Catherine Gathercole, Teeside Socialist Party

At the Windsor picket line, pickets all read the Socialist Party strike bulletin and agreed that we need coordinated action. One worker told me that even some who previously hadn’t come out, had since joined with the strikes.

Neil Adams, Reading Socialist Party

How can we win?

Socialist Party in CWU public meeting

18:30, Tuesday 20 December

Zoom ID: 89269239057


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