Socialist Worker

National post strike was rock solid

Strikes by over 120,000 postal workers last week delivered a stinging rebuke to Royal Mail bosses – and the government that stands behind them. Socialist Worker reports from across Britain

Issue No. 2175

Strikers at the East London Mail Centre (Pic: http://www.guysmallman.com/» Guy Smallman )

Strikers at the East London Mail Centre (Pic: » Guy Smallman)



London

NW2 office in Cricklewood was a gourmet picket line, with sandwiches, noodles and spring rolls.

There are workers there who took part in solidarity with the Grunwicks dispute back in the 1970s. One of them suggested the best way to win would be to occupy the offices.

“There’s no way the police could take back all the equipment and set up alternative offices to cover all the work,” they said.

Bus workers at Metroline in north London voted to donate £400 to the post workers’ strike fund, and Amanda, a driver at the Cricklewood garage, brought a £22 collection to the picket line.

In Waltham Forest strikers were buoyed by banners, collections – and breakfast. A local NUT rep brought £50 collected in her school and the newly-formed local support group collected £54 at the tube station.

In east London there were up to 100 people on an impressive picket line in Bow Locks. They were joined by a delegation of the victorious Tower Hamlets College strikers.

At the N1 office in Islington, groups of trade unionists delivered solidarity and cakes. They handed over collections ranging from £25 all the way up to £350.

The Mount Pleasant picket line in central London was lively, with Unison and PCS banners and activists. Students from King’s College collected £83 for the workers at Farringdon tube station.

A delegation of workers from Camden council joined pickets in Hampstead, north London, with a postcard signed by trade unionists (pictured). Their Unison union branch donated £1,000 to the postal workers’ hardship fund.


South East

In Essex, some 30 pickets ensured Southend mail centre was shut down. John Hunt, CWU branch secretary, said, “Management’s behaviour has been outrageous, with ritual bullying and harassment. Today is our first chance to respond.”

And at the solid picket line at the mail centre in Chelmsford, CWU area processing rep Vince Thurnell told Socialist Worker, “We are striking to defend public services. The action will stay solid for as long as it takes.”

On the picket line in St Albans, Hertfordshire, pickets reported that the strike was the most solid for years across the area.

CWU members in Stevenage said no one had crossed the picket line. One worker said, “We don’t want to be out here – we get letters like everyone else. But we have to do something. They’re trying to put more and more work on us.”

Watford CWU branch secretary Alan Walsh was one of 20 pickets. He said, “This is a last resort to make management see sense.”

A bus driver in Haywards Heath, West Sussex, went to the picket line with a collection of £18. He said, “I told them more drivers gave than refused – that’s the hidden support for fighting back that’s out there.”

And in Luton the distribution office was effectively covered by more than 20 upbeat pickets. Reps from the PCS, NUT and TSSA unions came to show solidarity.


Scotland

There were 30 on the picket line at the St Rollox sorting centre in Glasgow. One picket said, “We provide a public service from Land’s End to John O’Groats. That’s what this strike is about.”

At Glasgow’s Burnfield Road picket, one worker said, “There was one guy who was off sick last week, and they had seven managers doing his job between them.

“They were complaining how heavy his bag was – and they still didn’t finish on time!”

CWU rep Norrie Watson told Socialist Worker, “I’ve been in the CWU for 35 years and never in my life have I seen such solidarity as I’ve seen this morning.”

The mood was militant and upbeat at the distribution centre picket line in Edinburgh.

Alec told Socialist Worker, “If they defeat us they will come after every other public sector worker.”

And in Fife, Cupar delivery office was completely solid. Strikers enjoyed bacon rolls, cakes and coffee on a large picket.


South West And Wales

Some 20 workers braved the rain to picket Bristol mail centre. Strikers were out at 4am, warming themselves on braziers. They used portable barbecues to make bacon, eggs and burgers.

In Cornwall, the strike at Truro mail centre was over 70 percent strong. One picket, Steve, explained the attacks.

“And it’s a Labour government that’s supporting all this,” he said.

More than 20 strikers were picketing St Austell delivery office. “If you haven’t got the union, you’ve got nothing,” said one picket.

And in Helston, people who had been crossing the picket line were persuaded to join the union instead – and promised to be out on strike next week.

Ten picketed in Cardiff with local RMT, Unison and PCS reps. And 20 workers were outside Llansamlet depot in Swansea.

Striker Teifion Hughes said, “The strike isn’t just about us here and now, but school leavers and youngsters. What kind of life will it be for them?”

Another worker pointed out that last Christmas, workers received an incredibly meagre bonus of £17.50. Managers got £2,700.


Midlands

Workers gathered outside Newtown depot in Birmingham from 4am. One of the pickets, Sajid, said, “This is a fight for working conditions and job security.”

Passing drivers sounded their horns in support and passers-by stopped to offer encouragement.

In Nottingham, Beeston mail centre was solid with 40 pickets at a time, on rotas. They had griddles, food – the full works.

There were 40 on the picket line in Arnold, which saw lots of people coming over to offer their support, and 50 picketed in Mansfield.


North East

In Newcastle there were around 25 pickets, with more from other shifts at different times. The big topic of conversation was the shameful role of the Labour Party in the strike.

At Teesside mail centre the feeling on the picket line was one of determination not to give in to the bullying of the managers and the government. Even scabbing managers were having their doubts, after hearing “Lord” Mandelson saying they’re “not up to the job” and TNT managers might do better.

Kevin Phillips, a CWU rep in Middlesbrough, writes, “On one side you have ordinary, hardworking men and women fighting to protect the future of a much loved and trusted publicly owned service, and on the other the greed of capitalism and a management team hell bent on systematic destruction.”


North West

There was a determined mood at the Bolton mail centre, which is facing possible closure next year.

Royal Mail claims that will “only” mean 200 job losses – but the reality will be even worse.

In Burnley pickets were given a £50 collection raised on a town centre stall.

And in nearby Nelson, there were an unprecedented eight pickets.

In Crewe, Steve Wright, CWU south Cheshire branch secretary, said, “We’re striking because we have no alternative.” The striking workers said they were delighted with the support they’d had.

There was a solid picket of 20 strikers outside the delivery office in Fallowfield, Manchester. New starters are only being given part time contracts. A local teacher brought down a collection.

The picket at Manchester’s Oldham Street mail sorting centre was bolstered by support from university students, the trades council and Unite reps from Fujitsu.

Len Callahan, the CWU rep, has worked in the post for 32 years. He said, “The government has to keep it as a public service.”

In Swinton, Salford, the spirit on the picket line was comradely and welcoming. Derek reports, “My local postman, Phil, introduced me to his colleagues. They were angry that they’d been forced to strike.”

Normanton, West Yorkshire, saw around 40 strikers mount a lively picket outside the distribution depot. CWU rep Dave Hutchinson said, “This is our 12th strike day. We are determined to win.”

Support groups

  • Bristol – 07806 772 682
  • Birmingham – 07977 057 902
  • Edinburgh – 07983 537 187
  • Glasgow – 07805 340 555
  • Ipswich – 07517 531 733
  • Tower Hamlets – 07532 364 638
  • Brent – 07931 289 199
  • Greenwich – 07930 953 265
  • Islington – 07950 075 088
  • Central london – 07946 480 261
  • lewisham – 07506 790 733
  • Waltham Forest – 07905 765 705
  • Manchester – 07857 610 426
  • Newcastle – 07932 948 212
  • Sheffield – 07767 762 743
  • Kent – 07947 424 505
  • Calder Valley – 07871 927 008

Thanks to everyone who sent reports and pictures including: Sarah Cox, Colin Frost Herbert, Sam James, Tony Sullivan, Des Freedman, Neil Faulkner, Dave Barnes, Matt Bradbury, Keith Shilson, Richard Buckwell, Yunus Bakhsh, Bernard Metcalf, Ayeshah Jones, Tony Harper, Derek Coleman, Patricia Smith, Penny Howard, Seb Cooke, Susan Thomas

Council workers from Camden at the Hampstead picket line

Council workers from Camden at the Hampstead picket line



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