Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/507/3330
The Socialist 25 October 2007 |
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Striking Liverpool postal workers return to work
Postal workers in Merseyside voted to end their nine-day local strike at a mass meeting on 18 October. They are now working the altered shift start times that the Royal Mail bosses first tried to impose on 10 October.
On returning to work after the national two-day stoppage, workers at Copperas Hill were told that their shift times had now been changed. No notice, no consultation! The walk out began as workers refused to be walked over.
The action spread from the main sorting office at Copperas Hill to 21 sorting offices across Merseyside affecting thousands of Communication Workers' Union (CWU) members. A mass meeting on 12 October voted unanimously to continue the action against the advice of their own union. A further mass meeting confirmed this continued action - again against union advice.
But at the meeting on 18 October most of the workers felt they had little option other than to return to work in the face of increasing isolation and lack of union support. The union talked about a "right" to negotiate flexible working at local level as part of a package being negotiated at national level between the CWU and Royal Mail.
But it had been local management's inflexible and dictatorial attitude that provoked the local strike.
I spoke to James, a young postal worker at a north Liverpool sorting office, who vented his feelings after the return to work: "Me and my mates have lost all those wages for nothing. The Labour Party can find £millions to bail out Northern Rock but what about us".
Many workers were unaware that their own union conference had voted to threaten disaffiliation from New Labour. This news was met with great approval! Some workers disgusted at the role of the union leaders are talking about leaving the CWU.
While this bitterness is understandable we pointed out that this option is not the way forward.
Postal workers now need to organise themselves and campaign for a change of union leadership if their present demands on pay, terms and conditions are not satisfied. They also need to build a democratic and fighting union to counter the attacks by management on working conditions in the wake of any national settlement.
The Merseyside Campaign for a New Workers Party had issued a press release expressing support and solidarity at the start of the local strike. A CNWP leaflet containing this message was circulated to all the workers.