The stakes in the dispute between Royal Mail and the CWU union grew today as unofficial strike action in Royal Mail continued to spread. Offices in south east London joined striking colleagues in east and south west London, and there is now a real possibility that all offices and mail centres in London will join the action within the next 24 hours.
Postal workers in Merseyside are also maintaining their unofficial action, with at least one delivery office in the Wirral today joining those who started their strike yesterday.
Royal Mail’s imposition of new start times for delivery workers has been one of the triggers for the current unofficial action. A climate of intimidation generated by bullying managers has served only to inflame the situation.
In some offices petty-minded managers have told workers that they must put up their hand if they want to go to the toilet. In others workers have been told that they cannot have a drink while they are sorting their mail.
In south east London offices in Mandela Way (SE1), Abbey Wood (SE2), Peckham (SE15) and Rotherhithe (SE16) all joined the strike.
It is also clear that Royal Mail is attempting to use more serious tactics to provoke workers.
At the Nine Elms mail centre in south west London, workers were told yesterday that there would be no overtime to clear the backlog of work. Instead their mail from that office is to be sorted to a private firm.
In north London Royal Mail have told the union that it intends to “press ahead with the business plan” and make a number of workers redundant—many of whom are union reps.
Management’s escalation of attacks on the union is provoking a furious response. More than 100 workers gathered at the Bow Locks mail centre in east London this morning and decided to continue their fight.
Postal workers from the nearby east London distribution centre have also joined the action. A CWU member there told Socialist Worker that network drivers from the centre have been disciplined for refusing to cross picket lines.
He also said that drivers who had brought mail to the centre from Dover had refused to cross the picket line. They were disciplined on the spot, and then told to make their own way back to Dover—without a vehicle.
“This is clearly not just about start times,” said the worker. “It is about the future of the union and Royal Mail, and it is a fight to the death.
“The only way for the union to win is to take the gloves off, and get the whole of London out, followed by the whole of the country. Then we must stay out until we win.”
This is now the most important industrial dispute in Britain for years, and its impact will be felt by every trade unionist. A victory against Royal Mail will be a massive blow to a government that is determined to cut wages and slash services.
It is essential that everyone rallies behind the postal workers, organises solidarity meetings and collections, and attends pickets lines.