Postal workers rightly insist that the strike is about a lot more than their pay and conditions – although these are centrally important.
Steve Turner, the CWU branch chair of London West End Amal branch, said, “This is our most important dispute in many a year. It is about money, conditions and defending the service. The mood among the workforce is that enough is enough.”
At the Nine Elms office in south London, Graham Simmons, the CWU rep for the workers who move cash between post offices, said, “Closure of crown post offices is a big issue for us, as well as pay and conditions.
“We deliver to the offices and we don’t want to see them transferred to WH Smith. They are not in tune with the jobs we do.”
Chris Webb, area processing rep in Plymouth, said, “This is not just about pay, it’s about service for the public, our pensions and the future of the industry.”
John Ferman, unit rep at the Romford mail centre, in Essex, said, “This is about the future of the post office. The government is encouraging private firms to take the most profitable parts of our business.
“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.”
lThe strike has galvanised the union. One of the best aspects was that numbers of young workers joined the picket lines.
Hundreds of postal workers have also joined the union in the run-up to the strike.
The MDEC (Manual Data Entry Centre) in Plymouth is one of three such offices in the country.
It houses 800 of the lowest paid workers in Royal Mail, many of who are students on six month contracts.
Traditionally it has been very hard to build the union, but in the last two weeks 170 people have joined the CWU.
Plymouth CWU branch secretary Jeff Thomas has been negotiating to extend people’s contracts.
On the picket line he told how he spent the whole day before the strike in a local pub talking to the students – 45 more joined the union!
Making links between unions in Newham
A delegation of housing workers from Newham Unison visited postal workers on their picket line in east London.
The delegation included several women workers who had never been to a picket line before. We had discussed at our last shop meeting why pay is under attack, and the idea of workers’ unity in creating successful resistance.
We prepared for the picket line visit by meeting the union reps the day before. The main topic of discussion was a feeling that the political link to Labour held back struggles.
The CWU reps were so pleased that they drove our rep to the office, sneaked her past the managers and onto the shop floor to meet the reps there as well.
We assembled to go to the picket in torrential rain. There were some nerves about what to expect. But when we got there the sun came out, the brazier was warm and the picket solid.
We brought placards telling Gordon Brown where to stuff his pay cuts and expressing solidarity with postal workers. They also said, “public services not war”.
We also brought our union banner, a message of support and an invite to speak at our branch exec. We had collected messages from other unions that could not get down themselves.
The postal workers know that we will repay the solidarity they have shown when we are on strike, and our office has some enthusiastic new ambassadors for the idea of active and united strikes for our own pay.
Solidarity was order of the day
“Delegations from local trade unions – including Unison, FBU and NUT – joined pickets at our local sorting office in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, and got a fantastic response,” Unison steward Andrew Brammer told Socialist Worker.
“A post office rep told us how the strike had turned the tables on management.
“He recounted recent events that made the hair of seasoned trade unionists stand on end. One postal worker’s wife had died on a Friday. The next day managers were on the phone demanding he come to work.
“The lead rep for the office is taking round a letter demanding that the union stop funding the Labour Party, or face members withdrawing from the political fund.”