Postal strike reports

Postal workers, members of the Communication Workers Union, have been on strike this month in most parts of the country. This is part of the campaign against management bullying and their imposition of cuts in working conditions. Workers in Stoke are on indefinite strike. There is a ballot for national action in September.

Stockport and Merseyside

Over 97% of 200 postal workers at Stockport central delivery office were on strike on 22 August.

Hugh Caffrey

The union rep told me: “People have had enough, it’s crunch time. We used to finish at 2pm, now we’ll be out til 3 or 4pm and we’re not getting paid for that.”

The top manager at Stockport CDO gets an £8,000 bonus on top of his salary. The manager above him gets a £16,000 bonus. Bonuses are based on reducing the hours of those who actually do the work.

At the time of writing, postal workers have taken five days unofficial action at Wallasey sorting office on Merseyside. Workers in Wigan and in Rochdale are taking official action for three and one days respectively.

Workers at Warrington regional distribution centre face disciplinary action for refusing to handle mail which managers sent to Warrington in an attempt to undermine strikes in the Midlands.

Twelvetrees mail centre, east London

CWU pickets at Twelvetrees mail centre and delivery office in Tower Hamlets, London were as resolute as ever as they started their seventh day of strike action.

Paula Mitchell

One striker, Keith explained: “I was going to say that this dispute is about conditions. But it’s about our rights. And it’s about the future of our jobs and the whole postal service. Crozier and Co run this like a business now, not a service. They couldn’t care less about Mrs Jones’s letters, they just care about profits. They treat us like serfs. They’re feudal landowners and we’re their chattel.”

Union rep Steve expressed the determination of the workers to keep going. “This office is one of the militant ones. They want to shut down one of the London mail centres. They’d probably like to shut Mount Pleasant and move everything here, if they could tame us and get us to be good boys.”

In between strike days the workers at Twelvetrees have been “doing the job properly” – not a formal work-to-rule, but just doing the job as it should properly be done, rather than cutting corners and speeding up. This demonstrates that the changes in working practices and cuts in hours and staff are simply based on increasing exploitation and reducing the efficiency of the service as “doing the job properly” results in every day ending without the work being cleared.

On the picket line there is a lot of discussion about strategy. There has been a strike in London almost every week since the action started in June. The workers at Twelvetrees are glad that there’s a national ballot at last but they believe the union is dragging its feet. The ballot will take place during September and there may not be national action called until October. They think national action should have been taken from the start, instead of leaving areas to fight separately and risk wearing the workers down before there’s a national walkout.

The other main discussion on the picket line is about the Labour Party. The London CWU division is planning a ballot on stopping funding to the Labour Party. The pickets are unanimous – the funding should stop, and trade unionists should stand their own candidates. There is a lot of interest in the possibility of a workers’ list of candidates in the general election, following on from No2EU in the euro elections.

Burdett Road, east London

East London postal workers told Naomi Byron:

“Even while the strike is going on Royal Mail are going ahead with executive action in some offices and bringing in the very changes we’re striking against. The delivery office manager here was really dismissive of the figure of 26 job cuts, arms in the air, bewildered at how we had come by this figure – now confirmed at 23 job losses!

“It’s not just 23 job losses, it’s also the downgrading of hours to take away overtime and ultimately one step away from a fully part-time workforce on 20 hour contracts where only a few full-time staff will be there to prep the work for them. They just took on the first part-time worker on a 20 hour a week contract.

“Before if someone went sick you’d get eight hours overtime if you did their job. Now you’re paid four hours overtime to do the delivery, and someone else has to do the preparation on top of their own work. In a few months time they won’t pay any overtime for the delivery, you’ll just have to absorb that work for your basic pay.

“The strike needs to go national. There’s complete distrust between management and workers. To management you’re just a number. 15 years ago the camaraderie and atmosphere at work was really good, now management just think you should be grateful for a job.”