Socialist Worker

London strikers shake Royal Mail

Issue No. 1872

'A BRILLIANT strike day last week. Now let's strike alongside the council workers next Thursday and go on to give management a real hammering.'

That was the rallying cry of Mark Dolan, a rep for the postal workers' CWU union in north London.

Mark was speaking after over 25,000 postal workers struck last Wednesday in their fight for £4,000 London weighting.

Delivery and sorting workers struck virtually 100 percent.

About three quarters of counter workers also struck-a very good result as this section is not so well organised and has less tradition of struggle.

The strike is another big step forward for the union in reasserting its strength and confidence after the shock of the national pay ballot being lost.

Just after that result Royal Mail management said that 'the world had changed' and that if strikes went ahead in London then 'the world would change again'.

But last week showed that most of that threatening language is empty bluff if our side gets its act together.

Royal Mail tried a combination of intimidation and sweet talking in an effort to weaken the strike.

In some offices management targeted young workers and new starters with the message that their jobs would be at risk if they joined the strike. Bosses brought 6,000 managers into London from Northern Ireland, hoping to marshal a big scab workforce.

But it was one of the most solid days of action ever in the capital. Not a single ordinary letter moved. The managers, clutching maps and discovering what it was like to do a bit of work, were only able to get out some special delivery items.

They admitted it would take five days to clear the backlog. At Holloway delivery office in north London, where 55 people work, there were 25 on the picket line at 7.30am.

CWU rep Gary Cooper told Socialist Worker, 'I'm really pleased with the way the office has responded. Almost everyone who isn't on holiday or sick took part in the picketing. The strike is about London weighting but the atmosphere around it is driven by everything else that management wants to do as well. The changes which are proposed as part of the new delivery system would mean 11 jobs going here.'

A group of young workers were among those picketing the entrance for N1 delivery workers in Islington. One of them told Socialist Worker:

'Obviously it's quite tempting just to stay at home when there's a strike but I was determined to be part of making the day a success. Young people need to be involved in union activities and politics. We need energy and drive in the union.'

London also won backing from other areas. London mail from the strike day that was moved to Liverpool for sorting had not been touched days later.

'It's simple: don't touch London mail from strike days, that's our position,' a Liverpool CWU member told Socialist Worker.

Cambridge workers also refused to take mail rerouted from Watford. Eventually a deal was struck when Watford CWU agreed to the diversion.

A Cambridge CWU member told Socialist Worker, 'Management were not at all confident. There's no need to be depressed after the pay ballot.

'The victory after an unofficial strike at Oxford and the London strike have picked us all off the floor.'
Charlie Kimber

Offices stand up to bullying post bosses

SEVERAL local disputes have flared up in the aftermath of the London strike.

It's important that the union gives full backing to those in the front line and does not desert those in struggle, whether official or unofficial.

At Muswell Hill a rep is under threat after a spontaneous walkout. There was some confusion about when the London weighting strike was supposed to start. Some Muswell Hill workers came out the shift before they were meant to.

They were then expected to work the next shift. But they weren't prepared to be the only people in London working. So they struck again.

The next morning the manager started throwing his weight about. So they went up to the canteen and stayed there.

The area manager was told he had to rein in the office manager and on this basis they were ready to work.

Six managers arrived, so the workers walked off again. The managers had to slink away, and only then did work begin.

Management are now out for revenge. At Tooting (SE2), Abbey Wood and Thamesmead (SE28) workers walked out on Friday of last week after they were not paid for an hour's unauthorised meeting.

This was where they discussed whether they were prepared to do one delivery rather than two to clear the strike backlog.

They were then told that to return to work they would have to sign up to wholly new, and much worse, delivery arrangements.

Workers have now gone back. But they did not sign up to the new delivery demands.

A fight every worker should back

THE LONDON dispute is crucial. Management has said repeatedly that there will not be a single penny extra.

Any concession would be a defeat for their hard line and their belief that they can humble the union.

Equally for the union to go into the battle and get nothing out of it would be another bitter blow. The CWU is still very much under attack.

Managers say they have not derecognised the union. But they are not prepared to discuss the pay deal or the conditions attached to it. They are going to impose the lot without talks.

That's effective derecognition that can only be beaten by hitting back hard. London divisional rep Norman Candy says, 'We are not giving up until we get an agreement that our members can be proud of.'

In the longer term London is central to the whole of the bosses' plan for national 'reform'. London is presently the best organised division in Britain.

Nearly half of the total proposed savings (job cuts and speed-ups) in deliveries have to be imposed in London.

Next Thursday's strike will ratchet up the pressure on the Post Office and, by striking alongside council workers, will also intensify the political pressure on New Labour.

It is very important that the London action is quickly escalated further to, say, a Friday and Monday strike that would make the bosses squirm more.


Rank and file paper for postal workers. The latest issue of Post Worker is out now.

Articles on the Oxford victory and the London struggle. To order your copy phone 07904 157 779.

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Article information

Sat 11 Oct 2003, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1872
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