In a clear case of “If you can’t beat ‘em, close ‘em”, Royal Mail announced the proposed closure of Oxford mail centre in 2009 – with the loss of up to 430 jobs – just hours after the CWU union announced further national strike action.
Oxford is one of the best union organised and most union-minded mail centres in the country.
It has a reputation for standing up for its members, and showing solidarity to others.
Managers told us of the closure plans during worktime learning sessions, without consulting the union beforehand.
We were informed that the proposed closure was a result of Oxford’s deteriorating quality, low efficiency and high running costs.
That was news to us, as we had previously been told that all our targets were being met, and that standards set by the regulator for first and second class mail were all within “desired quality of service levels”.
There was no kneejerk reaction by our members in response to the closure announcement.
We are convinced that this is the latest attempt to provoke unofficial action at Oxford – and therefore justify the company’s attacks on us in the media.
When the national union started its current campaign, we knew it was not only about pay, pensions, working conditions, and our hard fought for terms.
We knew that mail centre closures were going to be an issue nationally too.
That’s why CWU deputy general secretary Dave Ward is absolutely correct to write, “This announcement was in direct conflict to the existing national agreement, which deals with mail centre structure.
“The union will be insisting that the national agreement is honoured.”
We all know the company wants 40,000 jobs to go.
That means the issue can never be just about one mail centre, but must be all of us together in a battle to protect all our jobs.
The battle to save the threatened mail centres has rightly become part of the national dispute.
Royal Mail scare tactics are an integral part of its attempts to intimidate us.
It believes that by isolating parts of the workforce, it can then ruin the national dispute and break the union.
But rather than weaken resolve, our determination to fight back as part of our national union has only grown stronger.