The fight by postal workers against Royal Mail bosses and the government that stands behind them is at a crucial stage – and the stakes could not be higher.
Strikes in recent weeks in London, Edinburgh, south west England and parts of the east of England have been rock solid.
But unless postal workers in the CWU union start immediate preparations for a national strike it is possible that those already fighting could be left isolated.
The bosses may then try to pick them off.
Royal Mail are determined to ram through “cost savings” and job cuts in the name of modernisation.
The company’s main objective is to smash the CWU before making another attempt to part-privatise the post.
Business secretary Lord Mandelson admitted as much when he said that our union’s local branches are the main obstacle to “change” in the industry.
The company’s response to the recent action has been to target certain striking offices and flood them with managers who have beem shipped-in from all over the country.
No expense has been spared as hotel bills, gala dinners and whopping overtime payments have been laid on for those that want to break us.
Just how determined the bosses are can be seen at my office in north London where we struck for an additional two hours on Monday of this week.
The company wants to break its agreements with the union by slashing earnings by up to £180 a week while increasing the number of hours we work.
On Monday it sent in over 80 managers in an attempt to push through these changes – and that’s in an office with just 110 workers.
The picture is similar in a number of striking offices around the rest of the country. Unless the union acts quickly to step up its response, Royal Mail will be able to seriously undermine us.
If there was widespread strike action it couldn’t do this.
We quickly need to make this a national strike.
Every office should be involved in action now and as many as possible should strike together – either officially or unofficially.
There isn’t an office in the country which is not threatened by these “cost savings” attacks. We are soon likely to face a new assault on our pensions too.
Donald Brydon, Royal Mail’s chairman, and Jane Newell, the chair of Royal Mail’s pension trustees, are both threatening to close our scheme to existing members.
The hypocrisy is incredible. Royal Mail boss Adam Crozier can collect huge bonuses and other payments, which mean he has pocketed up to £3 million a year.
But postal workers who get less than a third of that in a lifetime of hard work are told that it is us who must take cuts.
The choice is to fightback or see the public service we provide, and postal workers’ jobs, ruined.
The government that backs Royal Mail bosses is incredibly weak – as shown by its retreat over privatisation and many other issues.
There could not be a better time for us to hit back at it.
We should take inspiration from the wave of recent unofficial strikes in the construction industry.
When faced with job cuts workers at the Lindsey oil refinery didn’t wait for an official ballot, they walked out immediately and received solidarity from other workers across the country.
Within days they had won. This was a tremendous victory achieved through the most militant methods.
Concerted action by the CWU could do the same to Royal Mail and Lord Mandelson.
We could force them into yet another humiliating climb down. But we have to be prepared to take action that will really hit the company hard.
That means from now on our picket lines must be hard.
Branches that are not part of the action must be informed that we will be stopping their drivers when they come to striking offices, and demanding that they don’t cross picket lines.
We must also put an end to managers easily driving in and out of offices with vans stuffed full of our work.
And we need to take the message about why this strike is crucial into those areas of the country that have so far not started the process of balloting their members.
We cannot leave the task of spreading this strike to our national union leaders.
Some among them want to prevent strikes that might damage New Labour.
Others, who are more militant, want to use the existing strikes as a bargaining chip with Royal Mail.
Both groups want a moratorium on unagreed changes by the company in exchange for an end to the strikes.
Neither seems prepared to unleash the kind of action we need, and Royal Mail is showing no signs of wanting to talk about a moratorium.
That means the responsibility for spreading this fight is on the shoulders of rank and file activists – reps and non-reps alike.
Our enemy is weak and wounded, but vicious. It’s down to us to put an end to its attacks.
The day of action on Friday of this week, in which every branch with a live ballot has been asked to strike alongside London, is a great place to start.
Who’s striking on Friday
All delivery offices and mail centres in London are set to strike on Friday of this week, plus the following:
Delivery offices: Alloa, Anstruther, Basildon, Bathgate, Boness, Bristol EDO, Bristol North, Broxburn, Cowdenbeath, Dalkeith, Dunfermline, Edinburgh Central, Edinburgh South West, Edinburgh North West, Grangemouth, Kinross, Leamington Spa, Wadebridge
Processing and distribution: Darlington, Edinburgh, Plymouth, Stoke
Join the CWU demonstration
Friday 17 July, Parliament Square, London. Rally in Westminster Central Hall