Striking postal workers in London and Edinburgh hit back last week at bullying Royal Mail managers and their attempts to undermine the CWU union by ramming through “cost saving” measures.
As well as shaking the bosses, the strength of their action will have sent a shiver down the spines of those government ministers who are intent on handing a chunk of this vital public service to a private equity firm.
The success of the action has led to growing pressure from activists to make the strike national.
In London, where over 10,000 members of the CWU union took strike action on Friday, good sized pickets formed at even the smallest of delivery offices – including some where a significant number of workers had ignored previous strike calls.
At larger offices and mail centres dozens of strikers gathered to picket from 5am.
Dave Morrison, a CWU rep at the Islington sorting office in north London, told Socialist Worker that the 40-strong picket there was the biggest he could remember.
“Royal Mail bosses are not just attacking us here in London, they are after every postal worker in Britain,” he said. “This fight needs to go national – and quickly.
“We’ve got to use the momentum we’ve gained to up the pressure on Royal Mail and Lord Mandelson, the man behind the privatisation of the post.”
Katie Dunnin, a union safety rep in west London, agreed. She told Socialist Worker that in her area – which includes 800 union members in postcodes from W2 to W14 – only eight non-managers were working, and none are union members.
“People realise what the ‘cost savings’ really mean,” she said. “It’s going to be job cuts, followed by pay cuts, and then heavier workloads for those who are left.
“We’re not having it. That’s why we’ve got to spread the action by balloting other areas.”
There was a similar mood in Edinburgh, where mail centre workers also struck on Friday, and where workers in delivery offices across the city and surrounding towns took action on Saturday.
From the picket line at Edinburgh’s south west delivery office Dave Gilhooley told Socialist Worker how the attacks were decimating the service. “The latest cuts have killed this job,” he said.
“There used to be four vans to cover this area – now I am one of two drivers left.
“Local businesses have been badly affected, but our manager says if anyone complains we should tell them if they want their mail early they should pay extra for it.”
Greg, another worker, added that strong picket lines are a way to show Royal Mail that workers will remain defiant when they return to work.
“I won’t make it easy for Royal Mail,” he said. “Some guys go in early to get the mail sorted but they are not getting one extra minute of my time.”
The mood was also strong in south London, where Royal Mail bosses have run a two-year long offensive against union reps.
Mark Palfrey, a union divisional rep from south east London, told Socialist Worker that management’s attempts at intimidation had backfired.
“By threatening legal action, they’ve kept the Nine Elms mail centre out of the fight this time around,” he said.
“But the reballot of members there starts next week and we’re going to win it by a big margin.”
New ballots are also commencing at the large Rathbone Place and Mount Pleasant offices this week.
Union activists in London told Socialist Worker that there is a real thirst for more action, and that they expect to be striking again in early July.
They added that next time they will act to stop vans from areas which are not on strike from crossing their picket lines.
Martin Walsh, one of the leaders of the union’s London division, told Socialist Worker that new strike dates will be announced shortly.
He also said that unless privatisation plans are scrapped and the government forces Royal Mail to agree to further talks, there will be a ballot of CWU members in London on whether they wish to continue funding the Labour Party.
With scores of CWU branches across Britain – from Scotland to the south west of England – having either already balloted for strikes or planning to do so in the near future, the potential for national action is growing.
The combined strength of postal workers has the power to deliver a knock out blow to bullying managers, their job-slashing “savings programme” and the weak but nasty government that stands behind them.
New workers join fight
Peter, a young worker who has just finished his probation period at a delivery office in London, joined his first ever picket line last week.
“I suppose you could say I was born into it,” he told Socialist Worker.
“I come from a union family, as my dad was a strong union man at Camden council.
“But the real reason I joined the union is to get protection from management bullying.
“It is really out of control here.
“The bosses are always trying to stitch you up, particularly if you are young or a new starter.
“They try and force you to do things that aren’t part of your duties.
“Being in the union means you get the confidence to stand up to them.
“If you’re not in the union you have to keep your mouth shut and take whatever crap the managers give you.”