Royal Mail bosses, who are being battered from pillar to post by a series of regional strikes, now face the prospect of a nationwide strike. The CWU union this week begins a ballot of its 120,000 post worker members.
In many parts of Britain backlogs of mail are filling offices to bursting point.
In London managers have even been pictured sorting mail in the street because their vans cannot even get into Royal Mail car parks where post is stacking up.
“Delivery offices in my area are rammed,” a senior union rep in south east London told Socialist Worker.
“There are cages stuffed full of work everywhere. It’s almost impossible to move without falling over. And each office has more work being held in trailers at the Nine Elms mail centre.”
Morale among strikers continues to rise as it becomes clear that the company cannot cope and that more strike action is on the way.
More than 10,000 workers in London were set to strike this week and again on Wednesday of next week. They expect their ranks to be swelled by a further 35,000 CWU members across Britain striking the following week.
“Our members are in better spirits than I can ever remember,” says the rep. “At Southwark delivery office they’ve got Billy Bragg’s song ‘Power in a Union’ blaring out of the stereo – it’s driving the managers mad.”
There have been high level talks between Royal Mail bosses and the CWU in the last week.
Reacting to this news, pickets at the Tooting office told Socialist Worker that the union should not sign up to any deal that allows unagreed changes to their conditions to remain in place.
“People’s lives are built around their shifts, and management cannot be allowed to rip that up,” said Neil, a union rep at the office. “We mustn’t do a deal until all our duties are returned to normal.”
It is vital that the union keeps up the strikes’ momentum as the national ballot progresses.
In order to increase the backlog, and ensure the biggest possible yes vote for action, reps in every office should ensure that members are “doing the job safely”.
That means adhering to start times and bag weight limits, and post workers not using their own cars to help speed deliveries.
Union reps report the atmosphere among workers on Royal Mail’s network as being “tense and furious” after bosses this week forced through the introduction of new duties under its Network 2009 plan.
Thousands of drivers at depots across Britain have had their shift plans ripped up. They face losing hundreds of pounds a week as a result.
“Most people are doing the new duties – but through gritted teeth,” a union rep at the Northern Home Counties centre told Socialist Worker.
“Lots of us have had our lives turned upside down by this.”
Reps at several network mail centres have told Socialist Worker that workers face “daily provocation” from management.
Despite this, they say, most workers feel that walking out unofficially would undermine the strategy of existing local strikes and the national ballot. Nevertheless, there is a tense atmosphere in which one incident could trigger a wider response.
Many CWU members in London are now facing serious financial hardship after at least 11 days of strike action. The union’s London division has set up a hardship fund and is appealing for help from trade unionists.
Cheques payable to “CWU London Divisional Committee” and send to John Denton, CWU London regional secretary, second floor, 33-41 Dallington Street, London EC1V 0BB. Go to » www.swp.org.uk to download a collection sheet