Postal workers are preparing for strikes at a number of offices across Britain – and are likely to be soon voting on national action.
The immediate issues are jobs, conditions and the defence of the union. But Gordon Brown and Lord Mandelson’s privatisation plan looms behind all of them.
The magnificent 95 percent vote for action across London could see coordinated strikes with the Tube workers and there is discussion of a joint demonstration. The London division of the postal workers’ CWU union was this week expected to announce dates for a city wide strike.
But it’s not just the capital where workers want a fightback. Aggressive Royal Mail managers are attempting to ride roughshod over union agreements and to slash jobs.
Mick Rowell, the chair of the union’s east London branch, told Socialist Worker that his members are ready for the fight.
He said, “Management are constantly pushing people to work harder and faster, and at the same time they are slashing jobs and overtime.”
Johnny Hunt from the union’s Essex Amal branch agrees.
“The scale of ‘savings’ that Royal Mail wants are outrageous. At Basildon mail centre they want to cut 40 out of 110 jobs and people are absolutely furious. Last week they voted by 80 percent in favour of strike action.”
Bosses have tried to use the law against the workers. But union leaders in London have responded by saying that they will continue with strike plans in most units, whilst reballoting a handful of others.
“By taking legal action against us Royal Mail are playing for time, but it won’t work. We’re going to strike and we’re going to stay united,” said Mick.
This week’s CWU conference in Bournemouth was set to discuss calls to spread the action.
“The truth is that our members in some parts of the country are carrying this union at the moment. I’m confident we can win a national ballot.” said Jonny.
Dave Scott and Mick Loube are leading union activists from Suffolk. They told Socialist Worker about their worries over handing control of the dispute to the national leadership.
“The rash of disputes we have now is the result of the agreement between the union and Royal Mail that ended the last national dispute in 2007.
“We argued against the deal, saying that it handed management too much power. We had the company by the balls, and there was no reason for us to give in.
“Since then Royal Mail has had it all its own way. It’s time we turned the tables.
“There is such a strong feeling in the offices now, we mustn’t waste it.
“We worry that a ballot for a national strike might put the local disputes on hold.”
National action is needed. But it must not be at the expense of implementing the local ballots for action.
People want to fight now, not be put off on the promise of a ballot some time in the future.
There are those in the union who are prepared to trade long-standing union demands in return for a commitment from government not to privatise Royal Mail.
This would be a disaster. Postal workers are a potentially powerful group and the government is incredibly weak. Real resistance can win.
For more on the post and the CWU union conference, turn to page 14