THE CAMPAIGN to defend postal worker Paul Turnbull from the sack has got off to a tremendous start.
Paul is the area processing rep at Cambridge mail centre. He has worked for the Post Office for 15 years and has a clean conduct record.
Just a few days after Christmas he was summarily dismissed, meaning that his pay was stopped immediately and he was left with no wage despite still having an appeal pending. He was sacked due to an incident near the picket line during the unofficial strikes at the end of last year.
Postal workers at every level of the union have rallied round Paul. They see his case as an important battle and defending him as part of the wider struggle to maintain the union's strength. Paul has been a union rep for eight years.
There was great support for Paul at last week's CWU union national briefing for reps about the pay and conditions deal. Billy Hayes, the union general secretary and Dave Ward, the deputy general secretary postal, have already pledged backing for Paul.
Dave Ward announced the union would be ensuring financial support for Paul until he is reinstated. Watford branch pledged £500 for his campaign and Oxfordshire branch pledged £100.
Paul told Socialist Worker, "I'm very encouraged by the support I have received. It has come from union headquarters, my fellow union reps and, perhaps most importantly, from the workers at Cambridge mail centre. They have voted for a ballot for official strikes over my sacking if that becomes necessary.
"It's a good sign that the union leadership have taken such a clear position to support me. This case is not just about me. It's part of the process of keeping the union as a powerful force. I hope CWU members will keep up the backing across Britain, sign the petition and raise the case in their branches. The petition should soon be available from the CWU website.
"I know that this will be a difficult battle but I am confident that if we stick together then I can get justice and the truth will be revealed."
Paul faces a court case next month relating to the incident that led to his sacking. He hopes to prove conclusively that he was not involved in anything which could be described as "threatening behaviour". His internal Royal Mail appeal against the sacking will almost certainly take place after the court case.
Every CWU member must give Paul their full backing and make sure he gets his job back.
Paul is seeking any witnesses who saw an incident close to the mail centre picket line, outside the Junction nightclub in Cambridge on the night of 31 October-1 November 2003 (Halloween night).
Debate on the deal
POSTAL WORKERS across Britain began voting this week on a major new deal covering pay, conditions and the arrangements for the single delivery system. Continuing our discussion on the deal, MARK DOLAN, the CWU union area delivery rep for north/north west London, gives his view.
WHATEVER WE think about the deals which we are now voting on, we should remember that they are much better than they would have been if we had not gone on strike last year.
The official London weighting strikes and the unofficial action made a difference. The ten bullet-points which management believed they could lay down and force through have gone and the union is back on the map.
The London weighting strikes won far more than years of talks. After the action London weighting for outer London is set to rise by £11.52 a week in the 18 months from October 2003 to April 2005.
By comparison when it was left just to negotiation it took outer London over 16 years to achieve the same amount of money.
There are, however, problems with the deal. In north London reps from 22 offices met and decided to call for a no vote in both ballots (the national deal and London weighting). They felt, for example, there was still too much of a gap between inner and outer London weighting and not enough money was on the table. The strikes put us in a good position and we could have got more.
Whatever happens in the ballot now, we should not let managers get away with going beyond what has been agreed. Some managers are strutting round like peacocks and saying they will cut overtime and earnings. But Appendix H of the agreement specifically states that "reasonable regular earning levels should be maintained or enhanced". Local reps must ensure this is done.
Similarly union HQ has made it clear that they will support areas where managers impose unreasonable delivery targets and refuse to negotiate over them.
The deal puts a lot of stress on local strength and we need to develop that. Above all let's recognise that we have shown we won't be pushed aside and we haven't been beaten.