A TOP union leader in the Communication Workers Union launched a bitter attack on New Labour last week and questioned further union funding for the party. The speech came from Dave Ward, the union's deputy general secretary (postal). He was speaking to 300 strikers taking part in action over London weighting on Thursday of last week,
He said, 'It's a matter of democracy. If you asked our members how much they want to give to Labour at the moment I reckon that from 200,000 of them you'd get about £5. That's not £5 each-it's £5 between them. 'Let's give the £5 to Labour and say here you are-if £5 is not enough then you can disaffiliate from us.'
Postal workers applauded loudly in response. Gerry Harrison from west London told Socialist Worker, 'We're enraged that Labour has appointed people on huge salaries to the top of Royal Mail in order to launch an assault on us. 'They're not our government, they're the enemy, and I can't see why they get all the money we give to political parties.'
The bitter anger about Labour, and the readiness to question how much the party gets from the unions are more signs of the fundamental debate going on deep inside the labour movement. The anger will grow.
Postal workers across London were on the brink of unofficial strikes as Socialist Worker went to press.
Immediately after last week's very successful strike over London weighting, Royal Mail management engineered a new assault. The union said it was 'a campaign of harassment and victimisation aimed at intimidating CWU elected representatives'. This included demanding that reps who get facility time have to provide on a daily basis 'an hourly breakdown of what they have spent their time doing'. In the longer term this is clearly designed to clear the way to cut time off for union duties and weaken workplace organisation.
An internal management circular says, 'We need to ensure that reps understand that failure to comply with this request will result in their facilities time being reviewed and potentially withdrawn.'
Strikes over other issues had already burst out on Monday and Tuesday. Hundreds walked out at Greenford in west London following a dispute at nearby Southall. Management had instructed drivers to do delivery work at Southall. They refused, workers were suspended and the office stopped.
The work was then moved to the Greenford mail centre. Workers refused to scab and were suspended. Again the whole office came out. Management threatened to take Greenford's work to offices in north west London and east London. But they refused to handle it.
Meanwhile in Dartford, Kent, a strike began after management attempted to move work to a new scab centre, entirely staffed by casual workers.