THOUSANDS OF postal workers were forced to take unofficial strike action across London and Essex this week in a battle against their brutal bosses. They know their union, the CWU, and the whole way postal workers are treated at work is at stake.
'I have been working in the post for 24 years and there has never been a more important battle for all of us,' a CWU member told one of the mass meetings. 'Either we win and go back with our heads held high or we crawl back and the managers will lord it over us.'
Hundreds of postal workers confronted Royal Mail boss Allan Leighton at a mass meeting in Greenford, in outer London on Monday. They spoke of their complaints about bullying and intimidation by managers, as well as low pay and increased workloads.
'He went away with his tail between his legs,' said one of the strikers. But management-backed by the New Labour government-are still vicious and determined. This will be a hard fight.
A national strike was looking increasingly likely as Socialist Worker went to press. Management were beginning to move strikers' work to the rest of the country. Every postal worker must argue for solidarity and for a national response to a national issue.
Every trade unionist, everyone who hates Blair and everyone who wants to see a stronger workers' fightback should actively support the postal workers. Everyone can do a collection and, if there is an office near you, you can visit a picket line to give the money to the strikers.
Unity and anger on the picket line
THE FIRST shots in this battle were fired last week when postal workers struck at Greenford, Dartford, West London and Rathbone Place. Management responded with bullying, victimisations and further demands for worse conditions.
But this week rank and file organisation delivered a giant wave of solidarity. On Tuesday across London and large parts of Essex groups of workers gathered outside their offices in the early morning to decide their response. The night before there had been fears and uncertainty.
Would workers be prepared to walk out without a ballot and without the official support of their union leaders? The answer was a resounding yes. Meeting after meeting voted for action, for unity and for resistance.
Across the capital mobile phones rang as union members excitedly swapped news of how the movement was spreading.
Then the most eagerly awaited piece of news of all-the giant centre at Mount Pleasant with its 6,000 workers was on strike! The workers who had stood solid for over a week cheered as the reinforcements arrived. This is the most political postal workers' strike ever.
On every picket line there is fury against New Labour, which has appointed the management hit men to lead this battle against the workforce. One striker at Rathbone Place in central London told Socialist Worker, 'Under the Tories the union spent a huge amount of money campaigning against privatisation and attacks on the union. Now under Labour we have handed out millions to the people who are running down this public service and savaging us. Why are we buying the bullets that are used against us? We ought to give our money to the people who support us politically, not those who are our enemies.'
The strike is also a test for the 'awkward squad' of left union leaders and for the TUC. The strike is unofficial but it is so big and in such a key union that it will affect the mood in workplaces everywhere. Workers expected the bosses to rush to the High Court this week in an effort to smash the union legally.
If that happens every union must call protests and strikes.
Names of those who gave quotes have been removed due to management's victimisation of individuals.