Postal workers were shocked to hear this week that Simon Furze, a well known and highly effective CWU union rep at Royal Mail’s Leicester North delivery office, has been sacked.
Simon has worked for Royal Mail for nine years and has been a rep, and previously a sub rep, for around two years.
In that time he has proven himself to be a staunch defender of workers’ rights and a vigorous opponent of racism and bigotry. Many workers at Simon’s delivery office believe that it is these qualities that have caused Royal Mail to target him.
In the week before he was suspended Simon made a formal complaint about a manager at his office he says threatened to “smash his teeth in”.
Local trade unionists organised an emergency protest outside the Leicester North delivery office on Monday.
Workers approached their acting union rep to demand an impromptu union meeting, and then walked off the job to hear their union area delivery rep explain how the CWU plans to get Simon back at work.
Simon was suspended after an honest mistake involving the delivery of door-to-door leaflets (otherwise known as junk mail).
Royal Mail are claiming Simon wilfully delayed the mail and defrauded the company.
In other cases where similar mistakes have been made workers have faced a one-year or two-year suspended dismissal at worst.
The CWU is arguing that Royal Mail’s own system for checking on such deliveries was at fault, and that Simon is being victimised for his trade union activities.
The union has formally appealed against the sacking and is pushing hard for the issue to go before the National Independent Appeals panel that deals with reps who are facing disciplinary action for their union work.
Simon’s case is part of a wider pattern of attacks against union reps in Royal Mail, and more generally in the public sector.
Many activists fear that the company is attempting to “soften up” the union before the major battle over pensions and office closures that is set to commence in the autumn.