Royal Mail workers say that conditions in the company have been getting tougher – and management even more aggressive – in the last few years.
“I used to love this job, but now the bullying and harassment is out of control,” says Pete, who has worked in the post for more than 30 years and was among the 12-strong picket at the East London Distribution Centre in Thurrock, Essex, last week.
“There is always a manager monitoring you. Frankly, I find it embarrassing that I have to put my hand up to ask someone half my age if I can go to the toilet.”
Network driver John agrees. “The worst thing is that they are constantly tracking you,” he says. “The other day, because it was so hot in the cab, I had to stop at a shop to buy a drink.
“When I got back to the depot I was hauled into a manager’s office and asked to account for a ten-minute gap in my progress on the road.”
Others on the picket line told of how Royal Mail’s carefully crafted image of being a “family friendly” firm was a sham.
“In addition to my job I look after my elderly mother,” says Graham. “And, for a few days a year social services provide me with what’s known as respite cover, so that I can get a bit of a break.
“This year it is arranged for four days from Boxing Day, but Royal Mail have told me that I’m rostered to work then and are not prepared to change it. That means my respite days are going to be spent driving an articulated lorry.”
Steve has worked at London’s N1 sorting office for eight years. He says that the situation for delivery workers is much the same.
“The stress they put you under is incredible,” he said. “The recent revisions to our delivery rounds means that my workload has doubled – and if you don’t complete on time, then managers call you in for a grilling.
“I’m totally frazzled when I get home. All I can do is sit in my chair and I just don’t seem to be able to switch off.
“After all, I know its going to be the same old shit tomorrow, don’t I?”
All names have been changed to protect workers from management reprisals
The atmosphere at Wimbledon delivery office in south London remains tense after management attempts to force long-standing drivers to accept any duty offered, rather than their usual work. Union reps rightly see this as a prelude to redundancies.
Managers, who by last weekend seemed to have backed down, renewed their attack with vigour on Monday of this week.
One worker told Socialist Worker that the office was “complete chaos”, with seven managers drafted in from across London with the sole purpose of intimidating workers.
“We got more people being taken off pay and union reps told they can’t represent their members. Now they are threatening them with a charge of organising unofficial action.
“We are very close to walking out, but we’re also very worried that if we do, we’ll be isolated.”
Delivery workers at the Liscard sorting office in Wallasey, Merseyside, returned to work on Friday of last week after five days of unofficial action. 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 striker 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!”
The walkout ended after management agreed to talks.
Workers at Romford mail centre in Essex are livid after management said that it intends to permanently end all overtime on the nightshift.
“Most of us depend on overtime just to survive,” one worker at Romford told Socialist Worker. “My earnings are going to drop from around £500 a week to just £300. I’ve got a young family and now I’ve no idea how I’ll pay my rent. Lots of us are in a similar position.
“The extra work will be taken up by making us work harder and using casual labour to do any excess.
“Everyone believes that the nightshift is just the start, and that pretty soon they’ll do the same for the day shift.”
With management taking “executive action” over cost savings – implementing unagreed changes – in local delivery offices in Rainham and Upminister, union activists are angry that the national union has refused to process Romford’s request for a local strike ballot.