Socialist Worker

Reports from around Britain of the 13 July post strike

Issue No. 2059

Pickets in Glasgow (Pic: Jonathon Shafi)

Pickets in Glasgow (Pic: Jonathon Shafi)


Ayr

At the Ayr post office in south-west Scotland there was a good turnout on the picket line. More people signed up for picket duty than last time. Everyone was furious at the news that the bosses will be getting £370,000 and managers up to £10,000 in bonuses for “meeting targets”.

One worker told Socialist Worker said, “Who met the targets? We did all the deliveries and the work, this should be our money. But instead we are offered a pittance.'

Graeme Cumming


Birmingham

There was a lively picket at Aston mail centre in Birmingham on Thursday evening as the strike began.

Some 20 pickets made sure that once again the office ground to a halt.

On Friday morning 12 pickets were out. Although very few people scabbed on the last strike the union estimates that even fewer people went in this time, disappointing management’s hopes that there would be a drift back to work.

Brian Brookes, Birmingham and District amal branch chair told Socialist Worker “The staff I’ve spoken to, people I’ve known for over 20 years, are seriously annoyed. Regardless of the derisory pay offer and considerable strings, they’re really annoyed at the considerable disrespect shown by the business and their chief executive officers.

“It doubly nauseates them that they are constantly bombarded with ‘Dignity and Respect at Work’ which is preached but clearly not practised by their so-called betters”

Area distribution rep Sheikh said, “The strike is stronger this time. People are upset with the Royal Mail briefing. Everybody knows there’s going to be a bloody strike now because Leighton doesn’t want to know.

“They have put proposals that have upset the distribution staff as well as others. They’ve told us they want to change the shift times. People say no.

“Other public sector unions face the same pressures as us, I think it’s good if everyone unites together”

Pete Jackson


Brighton and Hove

The strike at Hove delivery office in Sussex was solid, with 25 CWU members on the picket line.

One worker told Socialist Worker, “It's not the money, it's the strings that go with the 2.5 percent deal. Cutting sick pay, change of start times, increasing workloads.

“There's no consultation with management anymore, they're unapproachable. We will take more action. If this day doesn't achieve anything, we'll need to extend the action.”

Strikers were equally upbeat at Brighton sorting office. Mick Bowles, assistant branch secretary of Southhdowns CWU emphasised that it was the conditions attached to the pay offer that were riling workers.

He said, “There will probably be an escalation if they don't come up with something different. The mood among staff is for further action. The postal workers are up for the fight.”

Manus McGrogan


Bristol

The Bristol CWU support group had a busy couple of days. We carried out solidarity action at both the West of England Mail centre in Filton and Patchway delivery office. We went to the Mail Centre at 7pm for the start of the strike – only managers were going into work. The picket line grew as the night wore on.

In the morning we got to the Patchway delivery office at 5am with delegations from the NUT (Bristol and South Gloucestershire), Bristol Respect, Unite, Unison, FBU and Rolls Royce test. While we were in the act of handing over the NUT's £500 solidarity donation, two managers tried to move the support delegations off a public area. They were soon scurrying back into their office after pickets and support group members pointed out it was our right to give solidarity and we were not moving.

We stayed at Patchway until 8am. Some of the support group joined CWU members to do a bucket collection at BT Central Exchange raising £86 for the CWU hardship fund.

The Patchway Delivery Office had a large increase in strike support and have found a new workplace rep as a result of today’s fabulous action.

Jaz Thomas, Patchway FBU on behalf of the Bristol Support Group

Eight union banners turned up at 5am to support the CWU action at Patchway Sorting Office in Bristol.

Banners included South Gloucestershire NUT, FBU, Unison and Bristol Respect. A delegation of teachers from Filton High School, which is near the Patchway depot, were applauded by the strikers after Laura Storey, Equal Opportunities Officer of the South Gloucestershire Division, reported that the division committee had unaimously voted to send a donation of £500 to the Bristol CWU, a letter to all South Gloucestershire NUT reps explaining the decision and a collection sheet to be taken round schools. She then handed over £130 she had collected from workers at Filton High School.

Rachel Kendall, President South Gloucestershire NUT (PC)


Burnley

I attended the picket line at Burnley delivery office in north-east Lancashire today. The pickets were very welcoming and appreciated the support. Gary Elliot the local delivery representative said that the morale of the workers is high and they are determined to win the dispute.

John P Johnston, Secretary Manchester TUC Pensioners' Association (personal capacity)


Cardigan

Dia a CWU rep reports that the strike action at the Cardigan sorting office in west Wales is 100 percent solid, with strong support from the public. Dia firmly believes that in sticking together they can get their demands met.


Cheshire

Runcorn delivery office all out again, and according to the area rep, Warrington delivery office, Warrington mail centre, Warrington rail terminal and Widnes delivery office were also 100 percent scab free.


Chesterfield

UCU member James Eaden told Socialist Worker, “There were about 30 post workers on the picket line in Chesterfield, Derbyshire.

“The mood was great, and the discussion was centred around what the next step should be – should there be an overtime ban, for example. There was also debate about public sector unity.

“Last time seven people crossed the picket line – this time it was just three.”


Crick

Royal Mail’s National Distribution Centre (NDC) at Crick, Northamptonshire is regarded as the postal “jewel in the crown”. And today it was 97 percent out!

Crick is a crucial office, with huge amounts of mail passing through it. It was set up with around 80 percent of the workforce as new employees, with no postal or trade union background.

Royal Mail were convinced that we would never mount a successful strike at the NDC, but we have proved them wrong.

Managers have denied staff access to their trade union officials and banned the distribution of union correspondence to all CWU members during the dispute. Hundreds of CWU members are now requesting the full details of Royal Mail managers’ bonuses which have been recently paid.

The CWU has been forced to meet members outside Royal Mail premises and hand leaflets to members as they are attending or leaving their shift.

CWU members were furious last night when management decided to confiscate CWU merchandise including whistles claiming that they were a serious health and safety breach. Members claim that safety standards in general are not adequate at NDC and Royal Mail is deliberately intimidating them throughout this official industrial action purely on the basis of their trade union values and the support for action.

The NDC probably has the worst industrial relations in Britain and it has only recently undergone an industrial relations review. A sick absence review was also recently conducted due to mismanagement and the unfair application of the attendance procedure.

Currently there is an investigation going on regarding bullying and harassment. This is the worst industrial relations I have ever witnessed in my 20 years as a postal worker and trade union official.

For Royal Mail's largest and most modern logistics unit to have such a disgraceful employee relations record within four years of opening just epitomises the type of dictatorial management regime that Royal Mail now employs.

It is almost as if management seem content to hand over contracts to mail competitors and destroy the great public postal services. It is also time that the Government got involved to end the unfair competition and reign in the regulator, Postcomm.

The government is also responsible for employing Allan Leighton and Adam Crozier who refuse to meet and negotiate with the CWU to end this dispute.

Mick Fitzmaurice, CWU Area Safety Representative


Derby

CWU pickets in Derby braved pouring rain to show their anger at the derisory pay offer.  One said, “It’s disgusting that this could happen under a Labour government.  This is going to happen to other workers like Unison too.”  Another added, “We need to make sure that all the unions come out at the same time.  There’s nothing they can do to stop us from doing that.”

Brendan Donovan


East Midlands Airport

From 7pm on Thursday a picket line was set up by drivers from East Midlands Airport Vehicle Operations Centre (VOC). Lorries coming to the airport operation from mail centres turned around after speaking to pickets and refused to cross the line. Royal Mail Airside managers attempted to intimidate drivers by stating that if any one shouted “scab” they would instigate a bullying and harassment case against that person.

VOC managers stated that they would stop the pay of drivers from when they turned around at Nottingham mail centre and refused to cross their picket and declare that as un-official action!

Clearly managers are getting rattled and the calling of a strike from 7pm stopped the network in mid-flow.

Gary Brooks, VOC CWU drivers’ rep (personal capacity)


Glasgow

The strike was solid across Glasgow, with only managers driving mail vans. Eight students from Glasgow University visited the picket line at Springburn ADC in a show of support, bringing £108 they had collected at Hillhead underground the previous evening. The pickets were delighted with the support shown by the students, as one of them said “someone has to teach the younger generation about fighting back and organising unions”, and being part of a struggle against Brown’s wage freeze will surely show them that. See also » Posties' protest song in Glasgow

On the southside of Glasgow, at the “Big South” on Victoria Road, a dozen pickets manned the lines. Union rep Taffy accepted a £75 donation collected from workers at the nearby Victoria Hospital.

Eileen Boyle


Leicester

In Leicester sites remained absolutely solid in an area that has traditionally been weak for the CWU union. At the main Leicester mail centre pickets blew whistles and sounded horns at the small number of non union members who chose to work. The active picketing meant that everyone entering the mail centre was challenged about the need for united action.

At the Campbell Street delivery office, where 300 people work, a manager had boasted that the CWU was going to be broken by this strike. However, just six people, all non union members chose to go in. Union reps arranged for a bag of sugar to be delivered to the manager with a note that read, “Sprinkle this on your humble pie”.

Workers at the Leicester north delivery office told Socialist Worker that the strike had massively boosted CWU membership in the city and that Leicester was now a union town.


Liverpool

Postal workers across Merseyside joined pickets despite heavy rain. There was a lively picket of over 20 workers outside Copperas Hill depot. One worker, Marisa, talked about the growing desire amongst workers for further action and the need to spread the message to other groups of workers and students.


Loughborough

The mood was excellent on the picket at the Loughborough Delivery Office, Leicestershire.

I handed over a letter of support from Leicester East Amicus Branch.

Mike Thompson


Luton

The strike was solid in Luton, Bedfordshire. Though, the picket lines were much smaller than previously, with four or five on entrance and exit gates, the mood for action is still strong. The only mention of scabbing was that a car of managers had gone in.

Dave Holes


Manchester

Postal workers were out in force on picket lines across Greater Manchester.

Around 35 pickets gathered outside the South East Manchester Delivery office with an even bigger barbecue than the last strike.

Similarly pickets had gazebos up outside the large Oldham Road Mail Centre and the North East Delivery Office in an attempt to shelter from the rain. Despite the terrible weather there were large numbers of pickets at most of the delivery offices.

Visits by trade unionists from Fujitsu and the council were very well received. Karen Reissmann, a local nurse suspended by the NHS Trust for her trade union activities, toured picket lines.

Most postal workers had already heard of her case from the local media and pledged to support her campaign for reinstatement. In all the conversations, parallels were drawn between the post dispute, Karen's suspension and the wider attacks on public services.

There was general agreement that workers across the public sector would need to fight together not only against Gordon Brown's pay freeze but also to stop the neoliberal agenda of cuts and privatisation.

The upcoming pay rally organised by the CWU and PCS unions was of particular interest with most reps taking leaflets to distribute. There were also lively pickets at the South West Delivery Office in Old Trafford, Cross Street Delivery Office in Salford, the North Delivery Office in Cheetham Hill as well as across Stockport and Rochdale.

Amy Leather

Well over 30 Pickets, a big increase on the last strike day were out in force at Manchester’s South East Delivery Office in Ardwick.

The strike was solid yet again with only a couple of managers trying to cover some of the work.

The mood was confident and lively despite the rain with sausage barms for all on a barbeque set up under a tree.

Several strikers criticised their portrayal in the media as simply as issue of pay, and wanted people to know that this was more about dismantling the service and breaking the union.

Tony Harper


Portsmouth

Their was a really good mood at the picket line in Portsmouth, where the strike was solid.

The post workers’ were glad to have support and were keen on linking up with other public sector unions.

There is a joint public sector union meeting next week, which they already knew about, and were planning to come along to.

John Molyneux


Nottingham

I went down to the CWU picket line at the Main Padge Road depot in Beeston on Friday morning, from our Padge Road Social services office.

The picket – some 20 strong – was lively and determined. There was a great deal of bitterness at the bonuses paid to the line managers. People spoke of harassment by managers – including the harassment of a steward who was attempting a survey of members on the subject of harassment!

The strike was solid at this workplace of more than 1, 000. Even an erstwhile scab, who had been driven in by management lying in a van,  subsequently came out, apologised and joined the strike!

Pickets were enthused by the idea of a national strike for all public sector workers, over the similar issues we face – the pay freeze, privatisation, service cuts, harassment and stress. Links are being fostered between our two nearby workplaces, with the CWU  Branch Chair due to speak at a lunchtime meeting of our Unison members.

Martin Sleath, Senior unison steward, Notts County Unison Branch (personal capacity)


Preston

The post strike was solid in Preston, Lancashire, with lively pickets at both the delivery and sorting offices. From the 40 strong picket line at Preston delivery office, Mark Bolton Area Delivery Rep, told Socialist Worker in a personal capacity, “I’ve just texted all 41 reps in Preston, Blackburn, Blackpool – all over Lancashire – and the strike is totally solid.

“This is crucial – with more than 40,000 possible job losses. This is the only strike I know of where the union keeps going back with offers, that Royal Mail are rejecting. Talks with the PCS union are a great idea-It’s time to crank it up a notch”

One worker, Alan, said, “The strike is solid in Preston-two scabs went through last time, but we’re spoken to them since and explained the issues and they haven’t gone through today. Last time even the bin men turned back.”

Another worker Eddie told Socialist Worker, “It’s time to step it up a gear. At the moment bosses are quite willing to pay the losses. It shows how much they value their workforce – especially when we’re making their bonus for them.

“They’re willing to pay any kind of money to show the general public that postal workers don’t matter. I reckon it’s time for a general strike – we need to readdress the power of the unions”

Joe said, “I’ve only been working for 10 months. This strike is really important – this is the job I want to do, but with more work and less pay I’m becoming increasingly disillusioned.”

At the Preston sorting office, Khidar told Socialist Worker, “I’ve been here since 5:30am and nobody’s gone past. We will have to strike again till bosses start negotiating properly.”

Vinnie a CWU Steward (personal capacity) said, “Crozier and Leighton are saying there’s no money, but with the bonuses they’re on, there clearly is! We’re only asking for a pay rise that reflects the rate of inflation.”

Barry Boyes Area Processing Rep (personal capacity) said, “I was here last night and out of 850 workers only about six have crossed the picket which is phenomenal. We won’t stop striking until Royal Mail sit down and talk. Action with PCS is a great idea-anything that can help resolve both actions. A deal is imperative.”

Estelle Cooch


St Albans

The mood at the Brick Knoll Road sorting office, in St Albans, Hertfordshire, remains buoyant and defiant with only a handful of non-members crossing the picket line.

One post worker said, “Leighton and Crozier are clearly up for a fight – I’m just not sure how a day here and there will do the trick. They’ve got the new Harry Potter book to deliver next week. We could hit them hard there. It’s definitely time to broaden the attack.”


Swindon

About a dozen workers held up placards outside the central sorting office at Dorcan, Swindon in Wiltshire and stopped cars driving into the warehouse.

One worker Dave, said, “Only one person has gone in so far. We are stronger than we have ever been. The strike will go well.

'They are offering us a 2.5 per cent rise, which equates to £8.50 per week, ' he said.

But when the pay rise is weighed up with the new 22 conditions, he says workers could lose more than £30 per week.

'They want us to start at 6.30am instead of 5am, which means we lose out on £12.50 for that early start.'

'Also the general public will get their mail late, ' he said.

Sandy said, 'We are fighting to save the service. We are not just here for our own reasons. Usually we have a pay deal without 22 strings.

'It's not just money, it's the conditions. To make matters worse, they have awarded £40 million to managers this year.'


Torquay

The picket line at Torquay delivery office in Devon was fully manned, with 100 percent solidarity. We need to escalate action though, because Leighton and Crozier are determined to crush the CWU and have all postal workers on their knees.

It’s tough for all postal workers, but we need to stay strong.

Wade Casey


Walsall

There was a big, lively picket at Walsall in the west Midlands and all bar 17 of the 200 postal workers were turned away.


Wolverhampton

At the main Wolverhampton sorting office covering a large section of the north and west Midlands, lines and lines of vans were parked up and the car park deserted. One postal worker said staffing was cut to the bone and there was still a backlog from the strike a fortnight ago.

Martin Lynch

Pickets at Preston delivery office, supported by Respect councillor Michael Lavalette (Pic: Estelle Cooch)

Pickets at Preston delivery office, supported by Respect councillor Michael Lavalette (Pic: Estelle Cooch)


Strikers in Walsall (Pic: Martin Lynch)

Strikers in Walsall (Pic: Martin Lynch)



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