Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/498/3018
Solidarity with postal workers
Editor's note: Since this article was written, the postal dispute has been suspended. A statement from the CWU is appended to this article
SINCE JULY, Royal Mail workers in the Communication Workers Union have been taking action in defence of the postal service as a public service.
Bill Mullins, Socialist Party trade union organiser
Plans to close 2,500 offices, cut 40,000 jobs, implement a below inflation pay rise (a pay cut), reduce collections, end Saturday services, increase charges to the customer and to privatise will mean the destruction of an essential service. Last week's action of sectional strikes across Royal Mail was overwhelmingly supported by postal workers.
Gary Clarke, an Edinburgh postal worker, told the socialist that the bosses were reduced to shuttling mail round Scotland as they attempted to get postal workers to process mail diverted from strike-bound offices. Major disruption and walkouts resulted in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and increasingly south of the border when workers refused to handle the diverted mail.
Royal Mail is faced with a massive backlog of 130 million pieces of mail which, as Gary says, "are stuffed in mail trucks at every depot and the bosses cannot easily process them whilst the strikes are taking place".
The Scottish bosses, in a vindictive attempt to intimidate the union, announced that they are withdrawing facility time for union duties, from branch secretaries, area processing reps and distribution reps for 28 days or longer.
The union's plan this week is for more sectional action and (as is rumoured as we go to press) a national two day strike involving all members on 20 and 21 August. If that is the case then these latter two days of strike action will coincide with the national demonstration of postal workers in London on 21 August called by the CWU.
Gary added that the mood is increasingly for all the unions in the public sector to act together. It is vital that other workers are on the CWU demonstration to show solidarity with the postal workers. There is a demand that future strikes are linked in with the PCS, the civil service union, in particular who are at the moment having a massive consultation with their members on the next stage of striking in defence of public services.
Gordon Brown's New Labour government is publicly sitting on its hands and saying the postal dispute has nothing to do with it. In fact it has everything to do with Labour's privatising policies which have directly led to the crisis of Royal Mail. It is this that lies behind the attacks on postal workers.
Handing over the profitable parts of letter and parcel delivery to the private sector has led to a reduction in Royal Mail's cash, which, coupled with a £6 billion pension fund deficit, is the main reason for the crisis.
Many postal workers must be asking themselves why the union continues to fund New Labour when all this is going on.
They, like many other workers, are increasingly accepting that the industrial battle they are involved in must be linked to the political sphere. That can only mean creating an independent political voice as they once had when the Labour Party was more under the influence of the trade unions than big business.
- Keep the Post Office public
- Defend wages and pensions
- No job cuts
- No privatisation
Below is a statement from the CWU website dated 9 August 2007:
ROYAL MAIL STRIKES SUSPENDED
Following a meeting held today between Royal Mail and CWU a Joint Statement has been agreed that means detailed discussions will take place on all the relevant issues between the two parties.
As a result the next wave of Royal Mail strikes due to commence today after 19.00 hrs are suspended.
For further updates please visit www.cwu.org/links/poldispute2007
The Joint Statement is as follows:-
Joint Statement – Royal Mail Dispute
At a meeting today between Allan Leighton, Adam Crozier, Billy Hayes and Dave Ward, it was agreed:
- that both parties commit to talks on all the issues between them, hosted and facilitated by the TUC. Both sides commit to reach an agreement by 4 September.
- that, during this period the talks are on a confidential basis with no media or internal briefings unless explicitly jointly agreed. The CWU Executive and Royal Mail Board will receive regular updates on progress and would also be expected to undertake this confidentiality clause.
- that, for that period, Royal Mail will not serve notice or take any unilateral action to impose changes by executive action.
- that, for that period CWU will suspend industrial action.
- that, the signatories to this joint statement will review the process as and when necessary.
The statement is signed by Allan Leighton and Adam Crozier for Royal Mail and Billy Hayes, General Secretary and Dave Ward Deputy General Secretary for CWU.
In The Socialist 9 August 2007:
Committee for a Workers' International
Socialist Party events
Environment and socialism
Tales from the council chambers