'We're fed up with rubbish money and getting driven like slaves. Let's take the smile off those bloody managers' faces,' says Mike, a Royal Mail delivery worker from Newcastle. The strike ballot among 160,000 postal workers has started, and there is a great determination to win the vote and hit Royal Mail hard.
Across Britain workers are enthusiastic about campaigning for better pay. Henry from London says, 'We've got two ballots, the national one and the London weighting one. I haven't met anyone who thinks what we've been offered is enough.
'I've had enough of getting out of bed at 4am, having my social life wrecked, and all for a pay packet that doesn't go halfway to giving me enough to live on.'
The union at every level has made a good start in the campaign. But there are big tests to come. As the firefighters' strike showed, the government will fight hard to stop public sector workers getting more than small pay rises. This is because ministers fear that others might follow.
The union should be preparing members now for the political flak that New Labour will fire at postal workers. At crucial moments Billy Hayes, Dave Ward and other CWU leaders will face huge efforts to persuade or intimidate them into accepting a compromise. This may fall far short of the settlement which is possible and which postal workers need.
Union leaders said last week that the claim was for a rise to £300 a week (a 14.5 percent rise). But they say only 8 percent needs to be paid this year.
They argue that there should be 'a more realistic and achievable way of introducing major change-single deliveries, review of mail centres and transport operations-with no predetermined 30,000 job losses. Instead there should be jointly agreed local targets influenced by your local knowledge.' That could mean at some point a proposal for 15,000 or 20,000 job losses as the price for better pay. That is unacceptable.
The rank and file must strengthen their own independent networks to push their union leaders forward and to oppose any retreat. The balloting weeks must also be used to link up activists for the fight.
Boss paid to 'understand'
'VERY small'. Unbelievably that's how Royal Mail's chief executive, Adam Crozier, described his £57,000 bonus.
Crozier was given the money on top of his £500,000 annual salary for his first two months working at Royal Mail. During this time he worked as a postman in Kingston, Surrey, to find out what life was like for the workers. So for those two months he received £140,333-not quite like the workers, then.
'Yes vote will develop confidence and organisation'
POST OFFICE managers threaten that if there is a strike 'the union will not emerge unscathed. If postmen and women walk out, customers will walk away and competitors walk in.' But the Financial Times reported last week, 'Private sector postal companies are lukewarm about providing cover if there is a national postal strike.'
Four companies -Hays, TPG of the Netherlands, UK Mail and Express Dairies-hold licences to operate in the British postal market, mostly handling business post. If a 24-hour postal strike hits a minimum of three Royal Mail post centres, the government has given them clearance to run a universal postal service. But Hays said it would not be able to change its operational structures to provide a wider postal service. Other companies are similarly limited.
Postal workers should not believe the blackmail. If they vote for a strike and win, this will develop the confidence and organisation to halt further privatisation.