Socialist Worker

Strikes coming together to win better pay for all

Over 75,000 postal and council workers struck on Thursday of last week in support of their claim for £4,000 London weighting

Issue No. 1874

THE POSTAL workers' strike was a brilliant success and it shocked management. They are bitterly disappointed that last week's strike was such a success. Bosses had tried their usual mix of intimidation and bribery to get workers to break ranks. There were threats against workers, especially young, new and limited-contract staff, that their jobs could be at risk.

And there were offers to delivery workers to 'turn up for work at any office, at any time between 4am and 2pm and in 'civvies'.' None of this worked. Not a single ordinary letter was moved on the day, despite bosses again moving thousands of managers into the capital from all across Britain.

A 300-strong rally in central London cheered CWU union deputy general secretary Dave Ward when he said, 'The top bosses, Allan Leighton and Adam Crozier, say there is not a penny more to settle our claim. But they can hand out bonuses totalling £30 million to managers. Then they threaten us with competition. If we give in to that sort of threat then we will be on poverty pay forever.'

The strike was even more solid than the very solid first strike a fortnight earlier. On the picket line outside the Leytonstone office in east London delivery worker Paul Knight said, 'We can't afford to go on strike but we feel that this is our only means of protest.'

At the strike rally Alistair Fletcher, a delivery worker from Clapham in south London, told Socialist Worker, 'We're desperate and that's why we are on strike. The money is simply pitiful for the hard work we do. We're on £300 a week before tax and stoppages, and that's for working an 11-day fortnight. I'm single but I work alongside someone with three children under five. He doesn't get enough cash for a decent life. Management could sort this out very easily but they seem to have their own agenda about disciplining the workforce. They say each strike costs £10 million, yet much less than that could settle the dispute. Many workers ask what the role of the government is in this dispute and why they are backing the management.'

Lloyd Harris, a sorting worker at the giant Mount Pleasant office in central London, said, 'Every year council tax is up, rents are up, transport costs more. Each of these bite into any small increase on basic pay so it's one small step forward and three steps back.'

Now there needs to be more action to force Royal Mail to back off. Most of those on the picket lines last week were firmly in support of escalating to a Friday and Monday strike. That would be a big step forward. It would also be excellent to coordinate action with council workers and other workers.

There was a strong feeling that everyone should be out together and that everyone should march together. Postal workers can win. A strike hurts the bosses. A third of the mail comes through London. Many of the crucial big business headquarters are in the capital.

The pre-Christmas pressure period is approaching (all the international Christmas mail goes through London). A win in London would be a great boost to the fight for better pay everywhere.


Blair and council bosses must pay up

'WE ARE doing all the work yet we are at the bottom of the food chain and it's disgusting. Those at the top are getting more money for doing less work than us.' This is what Gemma Demeza, a 26 year old road sweeper, said as 58,000 council workers in the Unison union struck over London weighting.

Over 2,000 workers marched through the capital on Thursday of last week. Officials believe support for the strike was strong. Workers involved in the action included bin workers, special needs teachers and school catering staff.

Gemma added, 'My rent is £740 a month, which takes my month's wages. I live with my partner and he pays the rent and I pay the bills. It doesn't leave much at the end of the week. Average rents are about £800 a month. People here cannot afford to live or look after their family. It's disgusting! We have to move out of the area to live.'

Workers are fed up that the government is ignoring the issue and that no settlement has been reached even though the dispute has been running for two years. Wages have continued to fall behind inflation and more and more workers have been driven to live outside of London by the high cost of living.

Pat Lyons, a kitchen assistant from Bigan Green School in Tower Hamlets, east London, said, 'We are striking for a fair deal for London weighting, which plays a big part in our wages. 'We all have to pay the same high London rents and travel costs. I live at Canary Wharf, which is a very expensive area.'

Stephen Siggers is a bin worker from Redbridge, east London. He said, 'When we tell people our pay they think it's for a part-time job at first and are shocked. How are we meant to live on wages like this in London?' Co-worker Christopher Cole adds, 'My rent has gone up by £5 a week every year for the past three years. I pay £120 a week to live in a two-bed flat. My wages are £211 a week-so that's more than half of my wages. I'm glad we've got all the union banners out showing that everybody is on the same side. I think more strikes will come out of today because I cannot see Blair backing down over what he has said-that it's down to the local authority and not him.'

Thelma, a special educational needs teacher in Lewisham, south east London, said Blair and council bosses should 'pay up. We live and travel in London and have to pay the same as everybody else and we are poorly paid on top. We do a good job as well. I would like to ask Blair how much he thinks a person needs to live on.'

Everyone Socialist Worker spoke to was in support of the postal workers' action. Peter Coleman, a library assistant from Newham, east London, said, 'I am disappointed there wasn't one big rally with post workers too. It would have made more impact. The more we strike together the more united we are and the more chance we have of winning.'


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Features
Sat 25 Oct 2003, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1874
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