Socialist Worker

Postal workers' strike: picket line reports from around the country

Issue No. 2071

Chorlton, Manchester

Chorlton, Manchester


Cambridge | Cardiff | Cornwall | Coventry | Edinburgh | Glasgow | Liverpool | London | Luton | Manchester | Nottingham | Preston

Cambridge

Striking post workers at the Royal Mail sorting office in Cambridge took up their positions on the picket line again with no sign that any momentum had been lost since the strike days were suspended in August.

Solidarity was shown by reps from both the NHS and council workers' sections of Unison, together with members of the NUT.

They brought union banners which were placed alongside a large sign at the entrance to the sorting office, reading 'You can still change your mind'.

Arrangements were made for solidarity speakers at a rally to be held on Friday's picket line, after which there will be music and a barbecue.

CWU rep Paul Turnbull said, 'Cambridge is as solid as it was before the talks. After management briefed staff on their plans for undermining our pensions, people have become even more resolute.

'These two 48-hour strikes will hit the pockets of post workers, but we all feel it is the right thing to do after management attacks.'

A retired CWU member, who had also come to show solidarity, said, 'It should never have come to this – with all the competition, Royal Mail can't afford the losses. There's no doubt we're going to win and management will have to cave in before long.'

Jonathan Walker


Cardiff

Around a dozen striking post workers were on the picket line at Cardiff's Penarth Road sorting office on Friday morning. The mood was positive with strikers keen to discuss the issues facing the union.

Amarjite Singh, secretary of the local CWU branch, spoke to Socialist Worker in a personal capacity. He said, 'The deal that they're offering has even more conditions and strings attached than the last one. Now the future of our pensions is on the table – which wasn't even the big issue before.

'Add to the pensions the 'flexibility at work' plan, which just doesn't add up and will see work loads increase. The modernisation plan will hit people in rural areas hard and could see an end to Sunday collections.

'Customers are already unhappy at how late their mail arrives now and these plans will make things worse. It seems clear to me that the bosses are trying to break the union and bring in changes that will make it easier to privatise the post.'

Postal worker Mark Baker agrees: 'The company wants to push up prices and is bringing in changes that will damage the service and make our competitors more appealing. A lot of our revenue from businesses in the area I work in is under threat.'

There is also a feeling of anger around the proposed changes to start times. 'The union has asked us to use restraint around this issue,' said one worker. 'But I think that maybe we should just down tools and walk out over it.

'People might say it's good to start later, but that means finishing later and lots of us have childcare commitments.'

Some of the strikers were also unhappy about the support their union was giving to the Labour Party and suggested it might be better to spend the money Gordon Brown wants for any snap election on a strike fund.

Jonny Jones


Cornwall

Over 20 upbeat pickets gathered outside St Austell delivery office on Friday morning. The picket line included at least one part-time worker and strikers were in confident mood.

Some spoke of how attempts at casualisation in changes to working practices and the attacks on pensions had become in some ways more important than the headline issues of pay and job losses.

CWU unit rep Mark said the range of issues involved was not reflected in mainstream media coverage. 'BBC News seemed to suggest it was all about pay,' he told Socialist Worker. 'But it's a fight to keep the union from being broken.

'That's why we're back out and hopefully this time, with longer strike action, Brown and Royal Mail will be forced into serious negotiations.'

Other pickets identified the growing gap between the cost of living and pay as an important reason for strike action. 'When I started ten years ago, I could have afforded a mortgage on the place I was living in – but not now,' said Matt.

'Also, the attempts to change start times would be a big disruption to workers' lives and for the public. It's a tough job and it's good to be able to have some of the afternoon free. The strike here is solid again – that's how we fight back.'

Matt Bradbury


Coventry

CWU sub area rep Wayne Cavanagh told Socialist Worker, 'This strike is about pensions and flexibility. They want you to work 12 hours and get paid for eight.

'With annualised hours, we'll work 30 hours one week and then get sent home – then the next week we could be asked to work all hours. It's not on.

'There is going to be a huge impact from the strike. The work is already building up in the office. It's still coming in but it's not being processed. And the general election could provide a good weapon for the union.'

Pete Jackson


Edinburgh

There were around a dozen pickets at the sorting office at the Gyle in Edinburgh on Thursday afternoon. They said they were determined to see the strike action through to victory.

The strikers were keen to stress that their strike is not just about pay, but about attacks on their conditions and the future of the postal service.

Strikers discussed their strategy for the strike and raised questions about the CWU union's relationship to the Labour Party.

Pat Smith


Glasgow

The St Rollox picket line began at noon on Thursday and was 25 strong even before the backshift had left work to join it.

Pickets told Socialist Worker that the strike was not only about the pay freeze and the imposition of new working practices – it was also about attacks on their pension rights.

Workers are particularly incensed that if the retirement age rises to 65 – as Royal Mail wants it to – then a 40 year old worker with 20 years' service who is forced to work beyond the present retirement age of 60 would lose £61,000 in benefits.

Joe Wright, the area processing rep, told Socialist Worker that the pickets at St Rollox would hold the line and show 100 percent solidarity during the strike.

Eileen Boyle


Liverpool

There were a number of strong pickets across Merseyside this morning. Many of the smaller offices had larger pickets than during the last wave of strikes.

There were seven people outside Lark Lane delivery office, where Socialist Worker was well recieved. Tony, a post worker from Huyton, reported that there were 20 people at his office.

He added. 'There seems to be more public support than last time, and people are very angry at Gordon Brown.'

At Copperas Hill mail centre there have been consistent pickets since 2pm on Thursday. A UCU activist from Liverpool university visited with a message of support.

It is clear that at all these places the bosses are doing everything they can to break the strike, but workers are determined to keep going.

Dan Swain


London

Strikers across north London held lively picket lines from Thursday lunchtime. Alasdair Smith, a UCU lecturer's union member, visited the picket line at Hornsey.

'There were eight people on the picket line at Hornsey, and they were very angry against the government. They were angry about the fact that £1 million has been given to the Labour Party from the CWU and felt that this money could have been better used in the strike fund.'

There were ten pickets at the north London delivery office on Friday morning. There were also 17 people on the picket line at Caledonian Road tube station, and three at Manor House sorting office.

In south London at Lavender Hill delivery office in Battersea workers on Friday morning said the mood behind the strike was stronger and firmer than last time. Tooting saw 12 pickets, Morden nine and Winbeldon 15 – all in buoyant mood, according to Jonathan Maunder.

Amanda, a bus worker from north west London, reports, 'I went to two picket lines this morning to show my support for the postal workers. There were around 15 pickets at Cricklewood delivery office and a similar number at Kilburn Park.

'The strikers seemed optimistic that they will win their dispute. They were pleased to see us – I think they were encouraged by our visit. They all seemed keen to carry on striking until they win.'

East London saw healthy pickets at Bow Locks mail centre and Burdett Street delivery office. Campaigners from Tower Hamlets Respect visited them to show their solidarity.

Strikers were in a determined mood, they report, with many calling for all-out action to defeat management once and for all.


Luton

The mood for the picket at the Dunstable Road office in Luton on Friday morning was confident with morale high. Over 20 pickets were joined by delegations from PCS, Unison, UCU, NUT and TSSA unions.

There were regular honks of support from cars passing the picket line. One striker told Socialist Worker that after the current two strike days, 'we should move onto a three-day strike, Tuesday, Wednesday amd Thursday, rather than a single day on Monday'.

Rank and file union reps across Luton with support of Luton trades council have set up a hardship fund for postal workers and for other public sector strikes.

A Unison local government worker told Socialist Worker, 'We should make sure we coordinate our strike days when we strike in November over pay'.

Dave Barnes


Manchester

Postal workers on the picket line at Manchester's Oldham Road mail centre were joined early this morning by union members from Manchester City College UCU, NUJ, nurses from Manchester community and mental health Unison branch, NUT and local government Unison members.

A delegation of students came with their union banner, as did members of Manchester trades council and Respect. There was much discussion about the need for joint action with other public sector workers as well as a serious questioning of the CWU's link with the Labour Party.

At both Stretford and Chorlton delivery offices the strike was 100 percent solid. Many workers expressed anger not just about pay, the main issue, but over pensions, retirement age and the new 'flexible' contracts, loss of overtime and annualisation.

Amy Leather and Andy Coles


Nottingham

The main mail centre at Padget Road in Beeston, Nottingham, was solid. Arnold delivery office was also solid with 15 pickets on Friday morning.

Local rep Steve Blower reported that from next Wednesday 'executive action' will be being taken in five offices locally which might well escalate the dispute.

He called on the CWU national executive to give national backing for this, backing which has not been forthcoming so far. His belief is that now out the postal workers should stay out until their demands are met – no going back to negotiation.

At Mansfield Woodhouse office, an office likely to face 'executive action' next Wednesday, there were still large numbers of pickets – but no scabs had, or were expected to try and enter.

A delegation from the Nottingham trades council presented a cheque for £300 to support the strike. Darren Gleboki, local CWU rep, confirmed that in the nearby towns of Kirkby in Ashfield and Sutton in Ashfield the workforces were also solid. This is the general picture across the area.

There had been a local meeting of 110 members in Mansfield on Monday – another local meeting is planned for Monday in Nottingham In addition, the workers will be sending a minibus to the London rally on Monday.

Richard Buckwell, secretary of Notts, Mansfield & Nottingham TUC (pc)


Preston

Strikers were out in force at the main offices in Preston on Friday morning. Around 20 strikers at the Christian Road delivery office were chatting and joking around a barbeque. At the main sorting office around 12 strikers held a determined and lively picket.

Regional CWU union rep Barry Bowes said that the meetings in the run up to the strike had been the biggest he had attended. He said the strike was almost entirely solid across the North West.

Michael Lavalette, Respect councillor, Preston town centre ward


Glasgow

Glasgow


St Austell, Cornwall

St Austell, Cornwall



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