Socialist Worker

Latest Royal Mail attacks could lead to unofficial strike

by Yuri Prasad
Issue No. 2165

Pickets at the East London Distribution Centre in Thurrock, Essex, are in a determined mood  (Pic: Socialist Worker)

Pickets at the East London Distribution Centre in Thurrock, Essex, are in a determined mood (Pic: Socialist Worker)

Thousands of postal workers in London struck solidly today against management attempts to ram through changes that will lead to a mass cull of jobs and the undermining of the union.

Strikers in the capital were joined by others in Kent, and by network drivers from centres across Britain. Activists in striking offices have told Socialist Worker that action remains 'rock solid' and that management are beginning to feel 'real pain' as the backlog of work grows.

But in a clear sign that Royal Mail are preparing to raise the stakes still further some bosses today said they would not pay drivers from depots that have not yet been balloted if they refused to cross picket lines.

A number of drivers from East Midlands Airport VOC have had a whole day's pay deducted after they refused to cross picket lines.

In response, most of the day shift has since walked out on unofficial strike.

So far, some 15 drivers from Warrington and the Home Counties have also had the sanction applied to them after they respected a picket line at the PRDC in west London. Managers had previously called the drivers into meetings individually and demanded that they sign 'waivers' that said they would cross pickets – but many refused.

Pickets at the NDC at Crick, in Northamptonshire, report that their 'vigorous picketing' had been successful in turning back dozens of Royal Mail lorries. CWU union reps there told Socialist Worker that many of those drivers could also face disciplinary sanctions. Whether this happens or not should become clear by tomorrow morning.

It is vital that union activists move quickly to respond to this attack by launching unofficial strikes. No one should have to face loss of pay, or other sanctions, for standing up for the most basic of trade union principles – not crossing picket lines.

Many network union reps and activists told Socialist Worker that they believe that this attack could trigger unofficial action.

Even before Royal Mail's latest attack some network drivers already felt that their fight would go unofficial when Royal Mail unleash the massive changes to pay and conditions planned for 7 September.

The CWU will be starting its ballot for national strikes at that time, and as a result, it is unlikely that the union's leadership will sanction a network strike until almost a month after management implement their changes.

In another sign of the pressure for an immediate response to management provocation, delivery workers at the Liscard sorting office in Wallasey, Merseyside, walked out unofficially on Monday after management unilaterally decided to slash the number of delivery rounds and attack terms and conditions.

One worker told Socialist Worker, 'They've been trying to bully us for years now. They don't care about morale at all. It just needed something big to set it off, and this attack was it.'

The mood on the picket line was bold, with strikers resisting police pressure to restrict the number of pickets to just six people. One strikers said, 'It's the workers that run this place, not Royal Mail.

'We could turn up at 5am and run this place without the bosses, no problem!'

Strikers today voted to continue their unofficial action, despite meeting with regional union officials in an effort to resolve the dispute.

A solid official strike by more than 100 workers at Stoke mail centre is also continuing.

Thanks to Peter Edwards for additional reporting

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