East London postal workers showed last week how to deal with managers who bully women workers. They struck in large numbers and forced a humiliating climbdown by the bosses. Up to 2,000 workers struck unofficially on Tuesday of last week in solidarity with workers on strike at South Woodford. At that office a woman worker had been reduced to tears by the verbal assault of a manager.
She was a victim of the Post Office management culture of intimidation and bullying in order to force ever more work from the same number of workers or fewer. South Woodford, where only two of the 30 workers are women, walked out to support her. Bosses were forced to negotiate. Workers narrowly accepted a deal which would involve the manager being removed from the office floor and sent upstairs. But when workers returned they found the manager still in his usual place. They walked out again.
This was a key moment. Management hoped the office would be isolated and forced to crawl back. But there was a tremendous feeling of unity with the office. It was fuelled further by the knowledge that workers at Leyton had also walked out after a manager made a derogatory remark to a black worker. In that case the manager had been moved, a solution that was not proposed at South Woodford.
On Tuesday strikes began at the giant mail centre in Whitechapel, in E3 and E10 distribution offices, and practically all delivery offices. The management cracked. They hastily put together a deal which sees the manager hauled out of the office and separated off from workers. There will now be an investigation and discussion about what precisely should happen to the manager.
A South Woodford CWU union member told Socialist Worker, 'Most of the workforce here has been at the office for a long time. Many have worked in the post for ten years, and one bloke has 46 years behind him! We are like a family, and we are not prepared to see one of us treated in this fashion. We are very pleased that other postal workers saw fit to support us. We do not want this manager back, and we want an end to overwork, bullying and intense pressure.'
Postal workers are sometimes portrayed as completely 'laddish', frequently sexist and racist. Yet these workers were prepared to put their jobs on the line for a black worker (in Leyton) and a woman worker (South Woodford and area). Management sows division. Workers' activity promotes unity.
CWU union leaders have agreed a ban on strikes until early January. If rank and file workers listened to them they would have to endure abuse and intimidation with no way of responding. They rightly took action and achieved a real victory.
THE DISCIPLINARY hearing against CWU activist Mark Dolan was proceeding as Socialist Worker went to press. A verdict was expected this week.
Mark was charged with gross misconduct and harassment after another worker overheard a conversation that Mark was having about the events of 11 September. There is widespread support for Mark inside the CWU union. Many London offices are ready to strike if he is sacked or transferred.
A leading London official of the CWU union told Socialist Worker, 'This is so clearly an attack on someone who has been a thorn in the side of management. 'It is an attempt to drive him out for simply exercising his right to free speech'. 'We cannot allow this to happen. Mark has been in the Post Office for 20 years. He is the treasurer of his branch. He is a defender of workers' rights and a socialist. I think that is a record to be proud of, and we are not going to let Royal Mail get him.'
Mick Doherty, who recently won his employment tribunal for unfair dismissal against the Post Office, tried to return to work on Monday. Mick, a north London postal worker, was sacked following accusations of involvement in football violence.
The employment tribunal cleared Mick and ordered the Post Office to reinstate him by 12 November. Initially the company agreed to this. Five days later it informed Mick's solicitors it would not be complying with the order.
Mick reported to Essex Road post office on Monday, in uniform, with a copy of the tribunal's judgement and its order for his reinstatement. But the Post Office refused to let him work.