Socialist Worker

Class unity wins over agency workers in Watford

Issue No. 2062

Picketing post workers in Watford scored a major goal against their management and in favour of working class unity on Wednesday last week when they convinced a coach load of Polish agency workers not to break their strike.

“We knew that our managers were going to try and bring in agency workers to try and break the strike,” Alan Walsh, the branch secretary of Watford CWU, told Socialist Worker.

“When a coach of about 30 agency workers turned up just before 10pm, a few of us went over to talk to them about our strike in the hope that we could turn some of them back. But as we approached we realised that the agency workers were all Polish, and that only a few spoke English.

“We found a couple who could act as translators for the whole group, and explained our case to them.

“I said, we know you are workers – just like us – and that you badly need the money, and that’s why you are here. Our fight is not with you, it is with Royal Mail management.

“I explained the issues to them. I told them that I had worked at the mail centre for 25 years – they gasped when they heard how long I’d been in the job – and I told them what the union meant. I told them that if it were broken, we would all have to work like slaves.

“Then they had a meeting among themselves to discuss what I’d said. I can’t speak any Polish, but I know that there was an argument going on.

“At 10pm a manager came out of the mail centre and told the coach driver to get the agency workers back on the bus. But he refused, saying that by law he had to have a tea break (other pickets went to make him a cuppa).

“The agency workers were still debating when three other managers came out and tried to herd them into the office. They tried to stop us from talking to them, but we told them to stuff it. We’ve got a right to talk to other workers and explain the issues.

“Then the workers decided. Over 20 of them got back on the bus and said that they would not cross our line, while about six of them went in.

“Myself and another picket got on the coach to thank them, and the driver. And as they drove away, all the pickets gave them a cheer and clapped them off.

“The most important lesson out of this is that agency workers are workers. And that if you approach people as workers, and explain the issues to them, they can be won to our side.”

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