Over 40,000 postal workers delivered a stinging rebuke to Royal Mail and its backers in government today by joining the first of two days of strike action in defence of jobs and conditions.
Mail centre and network depots across Britain were shut down, despite management claims to have recruited an “army” of casual workers to help break the strike.
The picture at Romford mail centre in Essex was typical. Bosses there had insisted that the over 200 casual workers employed on three-month contracts in the area would go into the hanger-like building to do the work of the strikers.
Pickets gathered from 4.30am expecting to see a convoy of vehicles bringing in scabs, but by 6am the mail centre’s gates were shut and only a dozen casuals had gone in.
The mood among strikers was buoyant.
“All week we’ve had the papers going on about these 30,000 casuals that Royal Mail is supposed to have recruited to break us. Well, where are they then?” asked Ryan Ward, a senior CWU union rep in the Romford branch.
“We’ve proven that when the union takes national action, there’s very little that management can do to undermine us.
“Now we need much more of the same. In Romford the feeling is that all functions should be out together on the same day and that we should have proper picket lines that we ask everyone to respect.”
There was a similar mood at the Edinburgh APC distribution depot.
Alec, a former Labour Party member, told Socialist Worker, “I believe this could be the most significant strike since the Miners’ Strike.
“The government have poured billions into the banks, and the City is doing fine, but now it wants us to pick up the tab.
“We are probably the strongest union in Britain, and if they defeat us, they will come after every other public sector worker.”
Strikers in many parts of the country told Socialist Worker that they were bitterly disappointed with the way their union leadership is constantly appealing for mediation, rather than rallying their troops for what many believe will be a hard-fought war.
They are right to feel this way. While the CWU’s leadership continue to beg management for talks at the conciliation service, Acas, and the government for intervention in the dispute, their opponents are busy preparing to seize back the initiative.
Royal Mail plans – detailed in this week’s Socialist Worker – reveal that, if the union suspends the strikes, Royal Mail will announce a further round of job losses, closures and attacks on terms and conditions.
It must not be given the opportunity to do this.
It is good that the union has announced three days of action next week. But if Royal Mail is to be defeated it must be put under more pressure and the action must escalate.
And, in order to build confidence, postal workers must be flooded with solidarity from other trade unionists.
Today’s strike is set to be followed by another of almost 80,000 delivery workers tomorrow.
CWU activists are calling for trade unionists from every service and industry to join them on the picket lines and show the company, and the government, that action can win.
Reports from around the country will follow