Socialist Worker

Time to unite with the post workers

by Charlie Kimber
Issue No. 2061

Over 400 people from across the North West region of the CWU union joined a march in support of the postal workers last Saturday in Liverpool. Delegations travelled from Wolverhampton, London and Scotland (Pic: David Swanson)

Over 400 people from across the North West region of the CWU union joined a march in support of the postal workers last Saturday in Liverpool. Delegations travelled from Wolverhampton, London and Scotland (Pic: David Swanson)


Everyone needs to get behind the postal workers. If at all possible they need to be fighting alongside them. The strikes are magnificent – overwhelmingly supported, militant and defiant. They have united men and women, black and white, young and old.

Go to a picket line and you will feel both the seriousness of the struggle and the spirit of resistance.

This dispute matters more every day. The complete refusal of Royal Mail bosses Allan Leighton and Adam Crozier to make even the most minor amendment to their original offer cannot be explained just by their desire to jack up profits in the industry.

Losses

At stake is the entire government policy – dictated by Gordon Brown – of holding down public sector pay.

If the postal workers get 4.5 percent instead of the offered 2.5 percent, who believes that 750,000 health workers will meekly accept 1.9 percent, or that 1.25 million local government workers will swallow 2 percent?

If the postal workers can block plans for 40,000 job losses, why should civil service workers knuckle under to demands for 104,000 job losses?

If the postal workers say no to the devastation of the publicly owned postal service, why should teachers allow academies and trust schools to despoil the landscape of education?

This is a crucial front, alongside the anti-war movement, against New Labour’s pro-business and pro-imperialist policies.

It matters this much, and it matters to millions of workers and those who depend on public services.

The postal workers have courageously opened a major battle, They are fighting for us all and deserve every bit of solidarity. But we also need to debate the way to break through.

This not like the 1988 postal strike or the 1996 strike. These were big battles, but they did not have the same general importance. So, after a series of strikes, bosses and government were prepared to offer concessions.

Not so this time. The CWU union needs to escalate in a different way. Postal workers need to combine harder-hitting strikes with coordinated action alongside others.

The strikes this week, with different functions striking on different days, are an attempt to escalate the dispute. Mail centres were to strike on Wednesday evening and during the day on Thursday, deliveries on Friday night and Saturday morning.

Support

Other groups were on other timetables. Every postal worker must hurl themselves into building them, and every trade unionist, socialist and campaigner into supporting them.

Some people think this is a very clever and effective strategy to disrupt the business. But, although, these strikes may stretch Royal Mail management, they have also confused and frustrated many postal workers.

The delivery workers who are housed in a mail centre will strike alongside their mail centre colleagues. But they will then do deliveries while their mates in delivery offices are on strike.

Multi-function workers will be told to cover for strikers – and will be unsure whether to obey the instruction or not. Delivery workers will ask if they should unload a truck driven in by a manager scabbing on mail centre strikes.

More generally, the divided strikes have less public impact than a strike by everyone together. And crucially they are much less likely to become a focus for solidarity from others.

It’s true that the CWU has given two weeks’ notice of some of its strikes. But 250,000 civil service workers are not likely to be moved by the prospect of striking alongside the Heathrow Airport post section or the Network drivers.

They could be attracted if given four weeks’ notice of striking alongside the entire postal workforce. And such a strike would produce a political crisis for Gordon Brown. It could be followed by even bigger united action.

Postal workers are a powerful group, as their strikes have displayed. Extended strike action will hit bosses and the government hard. But it will be immensely more powerful if coordinated with others. This is the escalation we desperately need.

The post strike is at a crucial stage. Everyone can play their part in helping it to win. Postal workers must push their leaders for joint action, and workers in other unions must raise solidarity and press their own leaders for united action.


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