Postal workers in Stevenage, Hertfordshire, delivered a message of defiance to Royal Mail bosses who want to shut their mail centre by demonstrating last Saturday.
Union reps from across London and the south east joined workers from the threatened office.
Shoppers, firefighters and paramedics cheered the 250-strong march as it entered the town centre chanting, “Royal Mail not for sale”.
Postal workers are angry that Royal Mail wants to force them to commute to a new centre in Hemel Hempstead if they want to keep their jobs.
“That’s a 50 mile round-trip,” said Sue, who has worked at the Stevenage office for almost 20 years.
“There’s no way that someone like me, who doesn’t drive, could do that. Royal Mail says they will pay my fares but it could take hours for me to commute by bus.
“I work from 5pm until 9pm—and I’ve built my life around that shift. I run dance classes and I have other jobs to make ends meet. That’s all going to be ruined if they get away with closing Stevenage.”
Families and friends joined the workers to show their support. Many were angry that the company’s plans take no account of the needs of carers and those with families.
“My mum works here,” said Nicola, outside the mail centre where she once had a four-year casual contract. “I rely on her to do childcare so that I can go to work.
“But if Royal Mail closes this place then she won’t be able to help anymore.
“The government says that people like me should be out at work and not claiming benefits. But this closure is going to make that impossible. What am I supposed to do then?”
“This has got nothing to do with good business sense,” she continued. “This mail centre has come near the top of all the company’s quality tests. If they close us, the public will to see their service deteriorate.
“Lots of other jobs in the town have already gone, and more are threatened.”
CWU union reps from other areas affected by Royal Mail’s mail centre closure programme brought solidarity greetings and banners.
“Any of us could be for the chop next,” said Ryan Ward from Romford, in east London. “We’ve all got to stand together.
“The company is not honouring the national agreement that we signed earlier this year. We can’t allow it to carry on this way.”
Angie Mulcahy from the giant East London mail centre, which is also threatened with closure, agreed. She told marchers that workers there are preparing for battle. “Like you, we’re not going down without a fight,” she told the cheering crowd.
March organiser and union rep Paul Turnbull told marchers that this was just the beginning of the campaign and to prepare for more action.
Unfortunately, the spirit of resistance visible among postal workers and the union’s lay activists in Stevenage stands in contrast to the CWU’s national leadership.
Scores of mail centres are set to close over the next few months. Thousands of jobs will be lost and communities devastated as the Tories prepare the public service for privatisation.
But so far, the national union has not been prepared to mount serious resistance.
Unless it acts soon, the spirit of militancy which has characterised the union in recent years, and put fear into the bosses and the government, could be wasted.