Socialist Worker

Post strike reports from around England

A round up of reports from picket lines from England, outside London, during the Friday 29 June one-day strike

Issue No. 2057

Pickets at Romford, Essex

Pickets at Romford, Essex


Brighton

There were about 40 on the picket line and the mood was one of determination not to be pushed around

Mark Abel


Burslem

In Burslem CWU Midland No 7 branch secretary Andy Plant told Socialist Worker (speaking in a personal capacity), “By the strength of the turnout we’ve had today it just shows how serious we are to win a decent settlement. We are opposed to job cuts, the 2.5 percent pay offer, the closures and the attack on public services.

“There has been no consultation with the union. The employers simply put a package on the table and told us to take it or leave it. We feel undervalued.

“Royal Mail just rehashed their old offer. We want to enter into meaningful negotiation but they will not listen. We are not prepared to accept Royal Mail’s position on this.

“Our strike today is a warning to those multi-millionaires Adam Crozier and Allan Leighton that we demand a fair package and full union recognition.

“What has really upset our members is the statement that we are ‘overpaid and under worked’. We work six days a week, starting at 5 in the morning in all weathers. A 2.5 percent pay offer is a pay cut which these millionaires are offering us.

“Everything has cascaded and if the employers do not respond within seven days our action will continue. We are also prepared to act alongside unions such as PCS and Unison in a general campaign in defence of public services,” he said.

The strike coincides with protests, marches and petitions against the closure of Hanley crown post office which Royal Mail plan to relocate in smaller premises owned by WH Smith on the second floor.

Unions, local activists and the North Staff Pensions group are campaigning against the closure. Not one of the eighteen post workers at the Hanley counter have agreed to be transferred.

Stewart Crehan


Cambridge

It’s been a really good day for the union.

At the mail centre only a few have gone in and we’ve had an extremely positive response from the public when we’ve been leafleting.

Delegations have come from the Unison, PCS and UCU unions. It was very heartening that half a dozen students came from a local sixth form college.

The manager at the local delivery office locked the office after a token effort to get it going.

Paul Turnbull, CWU area processing rep (PC)


Cheshire

Runcorn, Cheshire: 100 percent all out, no scabs. Out of a staff of 95, there were 25 on the picket line.

Widnes, Cheshire: 100 percent all out, no scabs.


Chesterfield

Chesterfield CWU Members were braving the rain in a solid show of strength this morning. A handful of scabs had crossed the picket line, in the words of one striker “not enough for a decent card school”.

The strikers gave a warm reception to a visiting delegation from the college lecturers union UCU.

Midlands UCU NEC rep James Eaden delivered a message of solidarity from Chesterfield College Branch of UCU. He said, “We invited Roy Pastoll the CWU Chesterfield rep to our branch meeting on Tuesday where he gave a impassioned account of the issue behind the post dispute.

“Our members voted unanimously to support the postal workers. We know that they like us are facing a pay freeze imposed by Gordon Brown. Our members also clearly remember the fact that CWU members always refuse to cross our picket lines when we take strike action.”


Coventry

Gary a striking post worker told Socialist Worker, “Morale’s really good – hardly anyone has crossed the picket line apart from gaffers.

“We have 20 or 30 on the picket line in Coventry. Things are solid elsewhere in the region too – Warwick and Kenilworth. This is a fight we can win and we’re all up for it.

“The response from the public has been brilliant – bus drivers, taxi drivers, people in cars all tooting and waving their fists. It’s a fantastic show of solidarity – we’ve people from courier firms coming up to us, taking one look at the picket line, they going away.”


Hove

Around 35 striking postal workers stood guard at the Hove delivery office. Out of a workforce of 130 the strike was solid.

CWU unit rep Andrew Hitchcock explained why staff at the depot were angry. He said, “Management tried to wear us down with worktime ‘learning’ sessions to sell us their business plans, but we know when Leighton and Crozier talk about modernisation what they mean is privatisation, cuts and redundancies. They’re insulting our intelligence.

“Gordon Brown has got to show he’s not just in thrall to business leaders. All these workers are natural Labour voters. When Brown needs us will we be there? This is going from New Labour to scab labour. We will keep striking until we get some form of negotiated settlement,” he said.

Manus McGrogan


Huddersfield

CWU members at Huddersfield Delivery Office have shown 100 percent support for today’s strike. The lively and cheerful picket saw not one blue-shirt turn up to work at all out of almost 300. The feeling is that members are fed up with endless rounds of efficiency savings, bullying management, and the imposition of unworkable revisions. Royal Mail’s offer of a 2.5 percent pay-cut, and the Business Plan of yet more efficiencies have brought the response “we’ve had enough”.

Simon Midgley, CWU unit rep, Huddersfield delivery service (pc)


Kent

The picket lines for the postal strike in Medway, Rainham and Chatham, were strong, well attended and determined.

One postal worker said, “I was here the last time, four or five years ago it didn’t do much, but I am here again and I will be here the next time and the time after that and again, until we get what we want.”

Another commented that this was a struggle for issues greater than just their own.

Sophie Jongman


Leicester

The Leicester North Depot had a over a dozen on the picket and saw refuse workers and British Gas workers refuse to cross the picket lines.


Loughborough

Despite the Loughborough office only having one rep for the 150 staff, the picket line had over a dozen on it.

The turnout on the picket is particularly impressive given it was pouring with rain. Inside there were only five managers inside.

Mike Thompson


Manchester

Over 20 pickets were out at Manchester’s South East Delivery Office in Ardwick. The Depot has 75 union members and the strike was solid with only a couple of managers trying to cover some of the work.

The CWU rep at the depot, Gordon Barnes said that the 2.5 percent offer with increased work and strings attached meant that members had had enough, and that a 77 percent ballot for action was one of the strongest ever. He said that there were two more days of strike action planned if nothing came out of today’s strike.

Another picket, Dave said that in seven years he has seen a doubling of the workload, with the associated stress and pressure.

Several of the strikers were keen pushing for joint action with other unions, notably the PCS, Unison and RMT.

Tony Harper


Middlesbrough

The picket was well attended and in good spirit. Management told those on the pickets to stop blowing whistles as it is “intimidating”, this was duly ignored. The strike was almost a 100 percent solid. The feeling of solidarity was high with cars beeping their horns and the union leaflets being well received in the town centre.

CWU Teesside branch secretary Dennis Steele said, “The support today has been overwhelming and we hope Royal Mail will listen to their employees. This support and solidarity should be heard by the serving representatives of Royal Mail, this shows they are not listening to us”.

Chris Newlove


Newcastle

There were 20 workers on the picket line in Brandon sorting office in Newcastle, from a workforce of 100.

There was an excellent mood, the local donkey sanctuary had lent the post workers a donkey – to represent how the workers are treated.

One post worker said, “It’s not just about wages, it’s about how we are treated. The extra work that management want to pile on.”

Tony Dowling


Norwich

The mood on the picket line at the Norwich sorting office was really good, with a feeling that the strike was solid and would send a message to management that they were willing to fight.

There were eight post workers outside the office this.

PCS members visited the picket line and discussed campaigning across the unions over pay and privatisation.

Julie Bremner


Nottingham

Seven members of the PCS civil service workers’ union showed their support for the strike by joining around 15 strikers on the picket line outside Beeston office in Nottingham.

The CWU reps told us that the strike was solid across the area and that only managers had gone into work at the office.

They were up for coordinated action across the unions over pay and in defence of public services.

They will also be sending a speaker and reps to the Organising for Fighting Unions meeting in Nottingham on 12 July, which will improve the links across the unions in the area.

Paul Williams, PCS national executive (pc) and Nottingham civil service worker


Oldham

One striker told Socialist Worker, “This dispute has come from the ongoing bullying we have had off the management. The result has been 100 percent support for the strike. Not a single worker has crossed the picket line.” Bruce, Oldham Road sorting office.


Oxfordshire

“There’s a brilliant atmosphere here,” Paul Garraway, political officer for the CWU’s South Central No 1 branch, told Socialist Worker.

“The Oxford mail centre is also solid. The nightshift basically took the day off.

“Day shift is due in at 1pm, and we expect a big lively picket line then.

“During the early hours there was some confusion about whether Royal Mail lorry drivers were supposed to be on strike or not, and three drivers at Oxford refused to cross picket lines.

“Managers told them that they would be disciplined, and that they will lose a day’s pay.

“Our branch has decided to pay their wages out of our funds. In fact we’ve decided that they deserve a bonus!”

The East Oxford office, where Paul works, was solidly for the strike.

“100 percent of union members at my place were on strike, there were more than 30 of us on the picket line.

“In the past few workers at the Banbury sorting office joined strikes. However, after a concerted effort by the union, Banbury has joined the fight.

“We thought that we’d got 100 out of 150 to refuse to work and were very pleased with ourselves. But we’ve just heard one of the managers from Banbury on the radio, complaining that he’s only got 30 staff in! That’s a real victory for the union.”


Plymouth

There were lively pickets at the major offices in Plymouth. At the main delivery centre in Plymton, the main hub for South Devon and Cornwall, support for the strike was solid. By lunchtime no one had crossed the picket line.

Jeff Thomas, Branch Secretary reported how one manager had complained to the police that there were more than 6 pickets, but the police had told him to “get lost”.

There was also a big picket at the Manual Data Entry Centre in the city. This office, one of three in the country, houses 800 of the lowest paid workers in Royal Mail, many of whom are students on 6 month contracts. Traditionally it has been very hard to build the union, but in the last two weeks 170 people have joined CWU.

Jeff has been negotiating to get extend peoples contracts, and told how yesterday he spent the whole day in a local pub, talking to the students. 45 more joined the union! “Only about 30 of the 150 on the early shift came in this morning. People realise that this is the big one, that if we lose this it will be the end of a decent Royal Mail,” said Jeff. “We and the other strong unions need to stand up and make sure that the government can’t continue to attack our services.”

Chris Webb, Area Processing Rep said, “This is not just about pay, it’s about service for the public, our pensions & the future of the industry. We are out here now for the right of our union to be negotiated with.”


Preston

There were 30 pickets at Preston delivery office and 15 at the sorting office.

Respect councillor Michael Lavalette visited the picket lines to express solidarity.

At the delivery office the strikers’ spirits were high and they were enjoying a barbecue. They said they were all ready to keep fighting.

At the sorting office, pickets said that they had turned away a number of vehicles including deliveries for the canteen.

Jen Wilkinson


Romford

“This strike isn’t really about pay,” said John Ferman, unit rep at the Romford mail centre, in Essex. “This is about the future of the post office.”

“The government are encouraging private firms to take the most profitable parts of our business and leaving us with the scraps.

“Then Leighton and Crozier say, ‘unless you take a pay cut, we can’t be competitive’.

“When you look at things from this perspective it’s easy to see what’s coming next – privatisation”

“I totally agree,” says Stephen, who is an Royal Mail engineer and an area safety rep at Romford.

“What we’re seeing at the moment can only be described as provocation.

“There are about 900 engineers at the moment. Management have announced that they are bringing in new print technology and that they are going to cut 90 jobs without even consulting the union.

“When we object, Leighton says that we are against change. But that isn’t true. We’re working with machines that are 25 years old, without proper spare parts to keep patching them up with.

“So of course we want new machinery. But it doesn’t have to come at the cost of jobs.

“Why can’t we keep the skilled staff to help bring in the technology to make sure that first class packets get delivered the next day?”


St Albans

“One hundred per cent solid – all across Hertfordshire,” area delivery rep Paul Grace caught the robust mood at St Albans sorting office picket line, “there should be 300 people in there but there’s ten, and they’re all managers and non-members. Those managers are getting thousand pound bonuses this year and we’re getting £2.56 for fulfilling our targets.

“It’s disgusting but payback is coming. This is the strongest and angriest strike we’ve had since ’94 and we’ve only just begun. It’s fantastic.”


Stoke on Trent

In heavy rain at 6am this morning twenty post workers were picketing the main delivery office in Stoke-on-Trent, by 10am the number had swelled to nearly 100.

Pickets were out at all ten sorting and delivery offices in the Stoke-on-Trent area, all of which reported a 100 percent turnout.


Wakefield

Solidarity was the order of the day in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, says Unison steward Andrew Brammer.

“Delegations from local trade unions – including Unison, FBU, NUT – joined pickets at our local sorting office and got a fantastic response,” Andrew told Socialist Worker.

“A post office rep told us about the atmosphere of intimidation inside the office, and how the strike had turned the tables on management.

“He recounted recent events that made the hair of even seasoned trade unionists stand on end. One postal worker’s wife had died on a Friday. The next day managers were already on the phone to him demanding he come to work.

“Another, who had chicken pox, was instructed to come to work regardless, or face disciplinary action.

The political atmosphere among the pickets was palpable.

“Strikers talked about the devastation the Tories created in the area when they shut down the mining industry. Then went on to say that the same attack was now happening to postal workers – but this time under a Labour government.

“The lead rep for the office is now taking round a letter demanding that the union stop funding the Labour Party, or face members withdrawing from the political fund.


Wolverhampton

In Wolverhampton, there were 12 people on the picket at the mail centre. At the Wednesbury and Bilston delivery offices, there weren’t any managers in to unload the mail moved by managers of other offices.


York

There was a large picket at Leeman Road, with a positive mood. Pickets said that only five went in, four of them hiding in the back of a van. There were solidarity visits from Unison, PCS and UCU activists, and the idea of a joint pay meeting seems popular. One striker said, “It’s right across the public sector, we’re all in the same boat.”

On the picket line in Chesterfield

On the picket line in Chesterfield


Pickets at Coventry Sorting Office

Pickets at Coventry Sorting Office



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