Postal workers across much of east London poured out in an angry unofficial strike on Tuesday. By midday workers at the giant EDO mail centre in Whitechapel, and at offices in Bethnal Green, Hackney, Homerton, Bow, Clapton, Poplar and elsewhere, were out in a brilliant act of solidarity with strikers at South Woodford.
The strike has again raised the issue of management intimidation and bullying. South Woodford workers struck last week over harassment. The office is dealing with far more mail than the 25,000 items a day it normally handles. 'We are being asked to move 30,000 to 35,000 items, sometimes even 40,000,' a CWU union member said. 'We simply can't do the deliveries they expect.' Last week a manager verbally attacked a woman worker for failing to clear all her mail in the allotted time.
She broke down in tears, and the office walked out in protest at her treatment. A deal was struck whereby the manager would be removed from the floor of the office. But when strikers returned they found the manager still there. They walked out again, and hundreds of others came out with them when they heard how they had been treated.
The action was continuing, and poised to spread further, as Socialist Worker went to press. In a different strike last week at Leyton 20 drivers stopped work after a manager made a derogatory remark to a black worker. The workers' solidarity forced Royal Mail to move the manager, but he is still working at the east London mail centre.
A Leyton striker told Socialist Worker, 'We are glad that we got the manager out of our office, but it is a disgrace if he keeps any sort of job. Imagine what would happen if a worker said something like this to a boss.' The bullying by management is an attempt to force ever more work from people and to boost profits in the run-up to more privatisation. The only protection workers have is to organise and use their industrial muscle.
Some 22 postal workers came to a meeting in Edinburgh on Saturday organised by the rank and file newspaper Post Worker. It brought together activists from all over Scotland, and there was an excellent discussion about building the influence of Post Worker and fighting privatisation and job cuts.
There was also an enthusiastic response to the planned demonstration against privatisation in Edinburgh next weekend.
Demonstrate, Saturday 17 November, 11.30am, East Market Street, Edinburgh. Called by CWU Scotland Number 2 branch, and supported by Scottish TUC and branches of PCS and UNISON.
Postal workers in London could be moving towards a strike ballot after managers reneged on an agreement to reinstate Mick Doherty. He is the former chair of the North/North West London CWU union branch, who recently won an employment tribunal verdict that he had been unfairly dismissed.
The tribunal ordered Post Office Counters to re-employ Mick, and bosses at first said he would return next week. But this offer was suddenly withdrawn last week. At almost the same time, Mick's brother Tom heard that an employment tribunal had also found he had been unfairly dismissed and should be reinstated with £10,000 compensation. This is supposed to happen by 19 November. But Royal Mail management will not obey this either.
At the latest hearing Gerry O'Rourke, Royal Mail's senior manager in north London, referred to Tom Doherty as a 'known hooligan'. This was despite the tribunal already exonerating Tom, a man with no criminal record and no history of football violence.
Both workers' cases have the full backing of national and local union leaders. John Keggie, the CWU union's deputy general secretary, promised, 'If Consignia do not reinstate immediately the union will be giving urgent consideration to its position.'
Managers have shown they are not going to be moved by mere words or tribunal verdicts. It will take action to get justice.
Post Office managers are also ready to sack another union activist in the same area, Mark Dolan. Mark is the treasurer of the North/North West London CWU union branch. He is facing disciplinary proceedings after a complaint from one worker about a conversation that he overheard concerning the 11 September suicide attacks.
Mark works at the NDO office, and his colleagues are determined that he should not face the same experience as the Dohertys. A final negotiating meeting between bosses and national union leaders about Mark's case was scheduled for this week.
If that does not produce the right result then a big campaign will be launched to get all charges against him dropped. Billy Hayes, the CWU general secretary, has already personally backed Mark's fight.
For details of the campaign phone 020 7239 3477.