Socialist Worker

Reports from the post strike around the country on 22 October 2009

Issue No. 2174

On the picket line at St Rollox, Glasgow (Pic: Duncan Brown)

On the picket line at St Rollox, Glasgow (Pic: Duncan Brown)



Birmingham

Workers gathered outside the city’s Newtown depot from 4am as the two-day post strike began.

One of the pickets, Sajid Shaikhy, said, “This is unavoidable. This is a fight for working conditions and job security.”

One worker said, “This is the time to come out and support my colleagues.

“Morale is rock-bottom. We are always told that it’s the workers’ fault we are losing business.

“But it’s the managers who cut jobs and then expect the existing staff to keep standards up.”

Drivers passing sounded their horns in encouragement and passers-by stopped to offer their support.


Bolton

There was a determined mood on the first day of the strike at the Bolton mail centre.

Ian Young, chair of the Bolton and Bury CWU branch, pointed out that the Bolton plant had been called the 'most economic' in the north west, but was still facing closure next year, alongside depots at Crewe and Liverpool.

Royal Mail had claimed that there would only be 198 jobs lost in these closures, but nobody accepted these figures as realistic.

And the impracticalities of travelling to a new site in Warrington meant that the employer's promise on retaining workers wanting to stay was equally fraudulent.


Cardiff

The picket in Cardiff had ten people on it at 7am.

At 9.30 the branch secretary Amajit Singh arrived from Merthyr Tydfil, where he had been talking to delivery office workers ahead of Friday's strike.

Local RMT transport union branch secretary Greg Harris, Unison local government union rep Karen Tyre and a PCS rep all came down to show their support.

Many said they would be coming to tonight's demonstration outside the BBC in Cradiff to protest against BNP leader Nick Griffin’s appearance on Question Time, and to Newport on Saturday to protest against the EDL.

Seb Cooke


Chelmsfold

At the solid picket line at the Chelmsfold mail centre, Vince Thurnell, CWU area processing rep, told Socialist Worker, 'We are striking to defend public services. We are not against change, but changes imposed with no thought for those who change is imposed on.'

'The action here is 99.9 percent solid and support for the action includes 20 non union members. We will stay solid for as long as it takes.'

Tony Sullivan


Crewe

Steve Wright, South Cheshire branch secretary of the CWU union said, “We are striking because we have no alternative. We want the people of South Cheshire to know we have not taken this decision lightly. Our argument is not with the public.”

The striking workers said they were delighted by the support they had received so far from people.


Glasgow

There were about 30 people on the picket line on Thursday morning at the St Rollox sorting centre in north Glasgow.

Alan, a CWU rep at the centre, spoke to Socialist Worker. He said, “The CWU is in a battle just now which is a fight for all trade unionists. We want to see their support. It is a fight for ordinary working class people, to defend jobs and our rights at work.

“They keep going on about the £8 billion deficit in our pension fund – but that was caused by the holiday the management took from paying into it. Now the government won’t bail it out, even though they bailed out the bankers.

“We are a massively powerful union, we survived the 1980s and Thatcher and we are still strong. We have 100 Labour MPs backing us.

“But no one in the front bench is allowed to, and it is a Labour government that is attacking us. If this continues, we need to withdraw the political fund from the Labour Party.

“Mandelson is an unelected politician, how can he have so much say? He has a personal agenda against the CWU. He thinks we are too powerful. But we are just representing our members.

“His goal is to crush the CWU, to crush the union.

“There is no private alternative to our service. The private companies just drop off the post they collect to us, and we are the ones who sort it and deliver it.

Another worker adds, “They say they are trying to improve the service, but actually they are destroying it. They are doing away with collections all the time. In August they did away with the Sunday and early morning collections.

“Now, you can buy your first class stamp, but if you put your envelope in the post box on Friday afternoon, it will just sit there until Monday.

“People who are away on holiday, or who are off sick, are not replaced. They called it ‘lapsed duties’. Their jobs just don’t get done, or they will force other postal workers to do unpaid overtime to cover for them, half an hour each. But people can’t just stay on. We have childcare responsibilities, family responsibilities.

“We provide a public service from Land’s End to John O’Groats. That’s what this strike is about.”


London

Sam James reports from East London, where there were up to 100 people on the picket line in Bow Locks, “It was an impressive picket line that saw visits from the leadership of the union and the national media.

Several delegations of local trade unionists joined the picket and brought banners.

There was a delegation of the victorious all-out strikers from Tower Hamlets College UCU, a delegation from Tower Hamlets Unison, a group of local teachers in the NUT and supporters of the Right to Work campaign.

A post support group meeting is being organised for early November, supported by the trades council, east London post CWU and Right to Work.”

Rob Jackson reports, Students from King’s college joined local workers and striking post workers to collect money for post workers at Farringdon underground station in central London today. Catching the 8am rush hour, £83 was raised.

Some people made a clear beeline for us to donate money. I raised £20 at work from just a handful of people who are low paid themselves.

The Mount Pleasant picket line was lively, with Camden Unison and PCS banners and activists going to show their solidarity, as well as a lot of press.

There was an interesting debate on the picket line about tackling the scab centres set up by Royal Mail to break the strike and the union.

While some full-time officials are using the argument that the scabs are unskilled so won’t clear the backlog, others want to picket the centres out and show management that they won’t break the union.

Sarah Cox reports, that strikers at the Princess Royal Distribution Centre at Stonebridge in north west London were upbeat on Thursday. The centre is a hub where mail brought in by train is transferred onto enormous lorries to be distributed to sorting offices.

On a normal day there is a constant stream of lorries in and out of the centre. Today there was very little activity. The strike was almost solid with just a few regular drivers scabbing, but some were lorries being driven in and out by casuals, recruited by Royal Mail in an attempt to break the strike.

The only printable verdict on Peter Mandelson voiced by the pickets was that he's a Tory.

The strikers were equally uncomplimentary about BNP leader Nick Griffin who is in the news because of his planned appearance on the BBC's Question Time today. As the Rep said, pointing to his multi-racial fellow pickets, 'These are my brothers and sisters, we're all in this together. That idiot doesn't know anything.'   


Newcastle

Yunus Bakhsh reports from Newcastle, “We were there early doors. There were two dozen pickets, and there’ll be more from the other shifts throughout the day.

We had a great response from the postal workers.

On the picket line the big topic of conversation was Mandelson and the shameful role of the Labour Party in the strike.

People were clear that Labour intends to smash the union and push through privatisation.

They said the Labour Party has ceased to represent working people and now stands for the bosses.

They’ve not been at all put off by the propaganda offensive in the media. Everyone there knows that there’s no other organisation that could do the job of Royal Mail. They know all that talk is just rubbish.

We have a Love Music Hate Racism gig tonight, and we’ve got postal workers coming to do a collection at it.

And the Tuesday coming is going to be the first meeting of the postal workers’ support group, in the Gateshead civil centre.”


Normanton

Around 40 pickets mounted a lively picket outside the postal distribution depot at Normanton in West Yorkshire on Thursday morning. Pickets were upbeat about the potential of the strike but angry that they had no alternative but to take this action.

Dave Hutchinson, CWU area distribution rep, told Socialist Worker that everyone knew it was really about privatisation of the postal services. 'Postal workers are up for change and modernisation, but by agreement and not on the management's terms. between 6,000 and 7,000 jobs have been lost already. Bullying and intimidation by managers is rife. At this depot this is our 12th strike day and we are determined to win.'


Southend

Some 30 pickets ensured that the mail centre in Southend was shut down this morning.

Strikers said that management had been resorting to desperate tactics, including insisting that Southend was the only office in Essex that would be taking action.

According to John Hunt, secretary of the Essex amalgamated branch of the CWU, “Management's behaviour has been

nothing short of outrageous, with ritual bullying and harassment. Today is the our first chance to respond to this.”

He insisted that the strikers are determined to win “a worthy agreement that will make up for people's recent suffering, particularly in London”.

He also criticised the role of Peter Mandelson, saying, “Mandelson's agenda is clear – to remove all influence of this trade union from this business. He's puppeteering the Royal Mail and his fingers are all over this dispute.”

Des Freedman


Stevenage

CWU members at the Stevenage said nobody had crossed the picket line.

One worker said, 'We have had a lot of support from the public – it's tremendous. We don't want to be out here. We get letters like everyone else. We have to do something – they are trying to put more and more work on us.


Swansea

Susan Thomas reports that some 20 workers were picketing outside the Llansamlet depot today.

Teifion Hughes has been working for the Post Office for 24 years, said “the strike was not just about us here and now, but the world of work for school leavers and youngsters. What kind of world will it be for them? We are fighting about what is coming after us. A better standard of life for the working class people.

“Modernisation is just about job cuts. We haven’t seen new machinery, just another wave of job cuts.

“When 100 people are needed to do jobs, the managers employ 80. The proceeds just go into the bonus funds for the bosses.

Another worker pointed out that last December workers received a meagre £17.50 Christmas bonus, but bottom managers received £2,700.


Watford

Watford CWU branch secretary Alan Walsh, one of over 20 strikers manning a picket line this morning, said, “The strikes will carry on for as long as it takes for the Royal Mail to see sense.

“None of us here today wants, or can afford, to go out on strike. This is a last resort to make management see sense.

“It is customers who will end up paying far more for their post if we don’t make a stand. What the public have to decide is whether they want a postal service or a postal business.

“At the moment we run a service that allows people to send letters to any part of the country for around 30p. If we are run purely as a business, that cost is going to rise considerably.”


Wolverhampton

At the North West Midland mail centre, up to 1,000 postal worker walked out. Wolverhampton union branch chairman Andy Morris, said he and his colleagues had gone on strike with a heavy heart. He said: “The Royal Mail is trying to railroad through changes without consultation. It wants to make unrealistic savings and unnecessary job cuts.”


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