Socialist Worker

Here's why post workers have had enough

THE RESULT of the postal workers' strike ballot was due this week after Socialist Worker went to press. They are fighting for a living wage and to halt management's plans to slash 30,000 jobs. PAUL GARRAWAY, a postal worker from Headington, Oxford, g

Issue No. 1869

4am I've just got up-it's not easy to start so early. My basic duties are to do five days a week on a rotating shift, so quite often I work Saturdays as a normal day. Some people still do six days. Most people know what it's like to get up at 4am once a year. You have a long day and then sleep more the next day to recover.

But it's different when you're up at 4am every day-your whole body clock alters. It plays hell with your social life. I'm normally so tired by 10pm that I'm ready for bed. If my partner and me go out to a party then we're always the first to leave.

I'm falling asleep when other people are just arriving! I went out to a Scooter Club meeting recently and I just couldn't enjoy it because I was so done in by the work.

5am Into the office. You have to be rigorously on time. It's made clear there's no room for people who are late. For the first two hours or so I 'prep' the round (put the mail in order for delivery). Then it's out delivering. Sometimes I'll do one walk (round), sometimes it's two. If I get back to the office before my finish time then I get more mail to sort.

9am I'm out late today because I was prepping two rounds rather than one. It's a heavy bag. The union has secured agreements about maximum bag weights. But of course as the deliveries are getting longer you come under pressure to pack more on your bike.

Lots of people use their cars to do their deliveries, although the union advises you against it because there are a lot of legal questions. Also management get used to the idea that you can get a round done in super-quick time.

12.30pm I work to 1pm if my day off is a Saturday, and 1.30pm if my day off is in the week. We don't get a formal break, although you can go for coffee and something to eat at various times. You have to work in all weathers, and of course for a good part of the year it's dark when you get to work. Some days you get utterly soaked. Imagine what it's like in January.

9pm Sitting in my room knowing that I have to do it all again tomorrow. I live with my partner (a teacher) in one room in a shared house. We share a kitchen, bathroom and lounge with other tenants in the house. It's a bit like being a student. The cheapest one-bedroom flat is about £700 a month to rent-that's almost my entire wages.

There's no way we could afford to buy. The lowest price for a house round here is £190,000-totally out of our range. I'm 36 years old. I think we should have better than this. Of course in Oxford you're very aware of the amount of money that's around for some people in this society.

I see the elite students with their May Balls and their special parties. They spend as much on their 21st birthday as I could earn in five or ten years. I've done quite a few jobs-security guard (terrible hours, appalling pay), building sites (hard work, don't get paid when it rains), hall porter and kitchen porter at an Oxford college (treated like rubbish, paid dreadfully) and in the Rover car plant (money a bit better-but I got laid off).

For years on the post we've been told that we're on the way to £300 a week basic. Management says the offer now is worth 14.5 percent to get us to £300. But there are so many strings-even harder working than it is now and mass job losses. I think £300 is only a starting point anyway-it's still not great money or in any way measures up to the job we do. We have to strike to get management and the government to back off.

I work 42.5 hours and... All of this gets me £220 a week take home pay

I GET £261.93 a week basic, plus £20 a week area supplement, plus £11 shift allowance. That's for getting up at 4am-it's worth about £8 a week after tax.

So my total pay before tax is £292.93. I take home around £220 after tax and other deductions. TWO OF OUR TOP BOSSES ARE ON £500,000 A YEAR. The UK Mail section of Royal Mail made £66 million profit last year.

Strike back hard to win

POSTAL WORKERS could launch a big challenge to their bosses and the government. But there will be immense political pressure on the CWU union leaders to accept a deal. Talks began at the end of last week and continued this week. Royal Mail has taken a very hard line. But it may be prepared to make some minor concessions if it fears strikes are coming.

The government is torn between two approaches. Some ministers want to replay the firefighters' dispute and go on an all-out offensive to discipline the unions, especially the more left wing leaders. Others think the last thing they need is a confrontation with a powerful and popular group of workers. CWU union leaders must resist any deal that falls short of £300 a week or includes speed-ups and redundancies.

The first strike should be called quickly, and there should be action to coincide with the Labour Party conference, which begins on 28 September.

Postal workers could demonstrate at the conference and call on other trade unionists to join them. Everyone should get behind the postal workers-visit picket lines, collect money to show solidarity and refuse where possible to do any work with private firms that scab on the strikes.

Every union leader should organise solidarity in this major confrontation with the government.
Charlie Kimber

Post Worker, the rank and file paper, is holding two meetings to discuss the dispute and the way forward. They are on Saturday 4 October at 2pm in the University of London Union, Malet Street, London (Euston tube) and in Newcastle (details to come). Post Worker is available from 07904 157 779

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Sat 20 Sep 2003, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1869
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