POSTAL workers across Britain are angry at Royal Mail's plans to make them work harder and for less money this Christmas. Management has tried to push through Christmas arrangements that claw back on overtime, concentrate the mail on fewer deliveries and squeeze staffing numbers and conditions. The result is that a remarkable 130 areas across Britain have demanded strike ballots.
Some offices have already voted. Every area of London except the central part was balloted-and every one recorded a yes vote to strikes. In some depots the vote was 'virtually unanimous', a London CWU official told Socialist Worker. The CWU national executive met this week to consider when to call action in London. Elsewhere there have already been spontaneous walkouts over the Christmas arrangements (see page 15).
Remarkably management's one hope is to rely on a national deal, which CWU union national officials signed recently, that gave away far too much to the bosses over Christmas. 'It may be the time of goodwill but I don't think that should extend to giving presents to management,' says a London postal worker. 'We have been let down by headquarters and we're having to fight to get back our rights.'
There is a new mood of angry determination among postal workers, best shown this week by a strike in Manchester's Oldham Road delivery section. Around 100 postal workers walked out unofficially last week when they heard that eight of their colleagues had been suspended. Two of those suspended are union reps. They were accused of harassment of a woman manager. But workers furiously denied there had been any wrongdoing. They said the suspensions were an attempt to weaken the union. Women workers on the picket line said they fully supported the eight.
Oldham Road is not traditionally a militant office. But these workers showed great spirit. They organised strong picket lines and on Monday made their own placards for a meeting with CWU officials. 'There was a great atmosphere,' one of the strikers told Socialist Worker. 'We were really up for getting the rest of the site out. We felt we could get full reinstatement and all the charges dropped.' But national CWU officials repudiated the strike and instructed the workers to return. It took hours to persuade them, but eventually they returned with a promise that there would be an official ballot if the disciplinary charges are not dropped.
The return of a greater confidence to strike by postal workers is another sign of a growing mood in Britain. Management are weak in the run up to Christmas. Postal workers need to press home their action and keep going until they win, whatever their national union officials say.