Socialist Worker

Rank and file say what happened

Selection of reports post workers and supporters sent to Socialist Worker

Issue No. 1876

OXFORD: Workers at the mail centre walked out on Tuesday night. We were proud to be one of the first offices to offer solidarity to those who have been bravely battling at Greenford, Dartford and elsewhere.

London mail was brought in behind the reps' backs. Management brought in casuals to do the job. This triggered the walkout. We are out to defend the union's strength in the workplace. The Headington delivery office came out on Thursday morning in solidarity with the mail centre and the national union. East Oxford stopped on Saturday.

MILTON KEYNES: Workers at the Dawson Road depot met on Wednesday and decided to walk out in solidarity with their striking colleagues. Two groups were especially vocal in their support for a walkout. First there were those who remembered the solidarity we got from other offices in our own previous disputes.

Second there was a group of young workers who were absolutely clear about the issues at stake and completely unafraid about fighting. John Colbert, eastern regional secretary, said, 'Management totally underestimated the feeling of our members. They thought our union was a spent force-how wrong could they be! We stand united as we have ever been. Senior management will never break the back of this union. Our leadership is visionary-Royal Mail's leadership is divisive.'

COVENTRY: Coventry walked out from the night shift at 10.30pm on Wednesday in solidarity with their colleagues in London and other offices. Members on the night shift called a meeting and spoke to reps about their determination to walk out. They'd seen Royal Mail attacking their union and their mates and weren't prepared to put up with it.

Although the national strike ballot went down to defeat, we didn't vote for wholesale changes in working practice and a rewriting of our industrial relations framework. The management were taking steps to derecognise the union. Morale here is so low that I'm surprised we didn't walk earlier. On Thursday morning only five out of over 500 staff went in.

The Post Worker strike bulletin was brilliant. Branch officials made sure it was duplicated and issued to all staff.

WARRINGTON: Workers at the distribution centre in Great Sankey, which employs around 400 people, walked out on Thursday. It is an important site because it handles bulk deliveries of business mail.

We were not prepared to be used as pawns in a game to crush striking offices in London and then, in the next phase, see the same rotten conditions imposed on ourselves.

We are fighting the battle of our lives and are determined to stay solid. The activities of the Communication Managers Association (CMA) should come under renewed scrutiny because of this dispute. They are the people organising the intimidation. CMA members are fingering reps to higher management.

The CMA should instruct their members to stop it or face being expelled from the TUC.

ILFORD: We weren't the first out but in the end we were absolutely aware that we have to stick together. If we had crawled back the job would be a daily torture.

LEYTON: The office walked out at 10.30am on 28 October. Rep Dave Speed said, 'Post workers were asked to handle work a governor brought in. Steve Hill and John Richardson were suspended for not handling strike work from the mail centre. Support from the public was great and the local firefighters donated some beer.'

Steve Hill explained that when management had asked him to handle strike mail he said, 'You know I can't do it.' Management took no notice and asked John Richardson. Stuart Tuddenham, a post worker for 15-odd years, explained that management in the past had tried similar tactics: 'Four or five years ago I was suspended for refusing to handle strike mail. All London walked. Management tried to break us back then but everyone stood firm. Now we have stood firm again.'

Networks moved fast to bring support

WE MANAGED to pull together a support meeting for the postal workers at very short notice.

I had been to the picket line at the Cricklewood office on Thursday. The strikers were solid but had little information about action elsewhere. Some were also worried that as time went by strikers would feel the pinch and come under pressure to go back.

Earlier I had spoken to a rep at the Kilburn office who was keen on setting up a support group.

The Cricklewood picket line was too, and we agreed to meet in a local pub at 5pm the same day.

I tried to ring all trade union contacts in the area, starting with the fire stations, and contacted Socialist Workers Party members to make collections at work. I also tried to contact other CWU union reps. One Unison union steward went round and collected £120 in the lunch break. We added a branch donation and took £370 to the pub.

Twelve postal workers turned up plus the Socialist Alliance publicity officer and individuals from the Unison, Natfhe and NUT unions. Collection sheets and a list of local workplaces were handed out. Two strikers took on the job of setting up a fund and contacting another neighbouring office. The plan was also to continue contacting as many local workplaces, trade union branches and individuals as possible, to get physical and financial support down to the picket lines.
BRIAN BUTTERWORTH Brent Unison branch secretary and recently Socialist Alliance candidate in the Brent East by-election

AT UNIVERSITY College London students showed their support for the postal workers. The Socialist Worker Student Society took the lead in gathering solidarity. We argued that victory for the postal workers would be a boost for both the campaign against top-up fees and the anti-war movement. As a start we regularly visited the picket lines at our local delivery office. We took down collections and banners.

One postal worker remarked that our appearance at the picket line was a disgrace-students shouldn't be up so early! We took collections at anti-war meetings and on sales of Socialist Worker throughout the week using a collection sheet we produced.

We brought a postal worker to speak in the college and we encouraged more people to visit the picket line and put up posters backing the strike.

STUDENT UNION members at the London School of Economics showed their overwhelming support for striking postal workers. An emergency motion was discussed at last week's union general meeting.

A postal worker on strike from Mount Pleasant spoke in favour of the motion and got a noisy and supportive reception from over 200 students. When asked what relevance the postal workers' strike had to students, the postal worker replied that unions and workers have to support one another and stand together in the face of the government's current policies.

He added that he supported the students in their continuing fight against university top-up fees. The motion backing the strikers was passed with an overwhelming majority. After the motion was passed students were asked to sign a petition in support of the postal workers and donate what they could.

Students quickly raised over £80, which they handed over to workers at the Mount Pleasant picket line.

SIXTH FORM students visited striking postal workers on the Colchester picket line on Friday last week to offer their support for the strike. A support meeting for the strikers was planned at the sixth form following solidarity collections both at Colchester Institute and Essex University. The night shift at Colchester East Gate office was on strike.

Kevin Pugh, the CWU unit rep for Colchester, said, 'The deal management have tried to impose is derisory. We have made loads of attempts to engage with management in the past few weeks over the unachievable targets they have set our members. But we are not prepared to just sit in consultations. Management are reckless and we are pissed off. The willingness of our office to walk out has been shown with by only one person out of 370 crossing the picket line.'

We are sorry that for reasons of space we were unable to carry more reports

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Article information

Sat 8 Nov 2003, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1876
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