Socialist Worker

Oxford post: Proud Victory

Issue No. 1735

Our strike has ended in victory after a week of unofficial action. It has been a revelation for all of us. It began over a small incident but quickly escalated to being about intimidation, harassment and victimisation. Royal Mail changed tactics for this strike. Once it started they were out to sack reps, to break the union in Oxford as an example to elsewhere. But we beat the bastards. We survived because of local and national solidarity.

Oxford's main centres came out, and so did Bicester, Headington, Wallingford, Witney, Carterton, East Oxford and other places. They came out because they identified very clearly with anyone fighting back against the regime of bullying management. People think rural area post workers live like Postman Pat, all smiles and cooperation.

But as this strike went on we heard stories from small offices that would make your hair curl. We have a management that is driving people to harder and harder work with verbal and physical intimidation. Once 900 of us were out the management drew up a hit list of people they wanted disciplined or sacked. They were deadly serious about it.

If they could have isolated us they would have chopped off the activists' heads. But people stood firm. At Swindon 200 workers walked out in the Streamline bulk mail section. They were not going to shift Oxford work. Other offices refused to touch our mail and left it piled up. We got great backing from Cardiff and London and Merseyside and elsewhere.

This forced the bosses to talk. There will now be a full industrial relations review and no automatic disciplinaries. I am proud to have been part of the strike. The war is far from over. We can all feel it. This is a titanic battle, and the challenge from management and the government of privatisation and 'flexibility' has got to be faced.

We need to organise at the grassroots because the people at the top of the union just aren't doing it.
OXFORD CWU member who would like to give his name but is worried about the possibility of victimisation

'Members must cooperate with management instructions. All branches and officials must understand that if they incite or induce unofficial industrial action they will be personally vulnerable to disciplinary procedures and could lay the union open to legal action. It is imperative there should be no spread whatever of the unofficial action.'
Special briefing from DEREK HODGSON, CWU union general secretary, to all branches, 7 February

'We're out. Bugger what Hodgson says. We're not scabbing on Oxford and we're not going to let the management break our union. We understand what's at stake even if the leadership don't.'
Swindon Streamline striker, 8 February

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Article information

Sat 17 Feb 2001, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1735
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