At a 2000 strong meeting of postal workers in Birmingham on Thursday the Communication Workers Union (CWU) launched a ballot for national strike action. The largest CWU reps’ meeting in some time kicked off a campaign over pay, pensions, workload and privatisation.
It happened as the Tories announced their intention to privatise Royal Mail. Postal workers attending the meeting from across Britain spoke to Socialist Worker. They said how infuriated they were by the government’s announcement, but many said their members were ready to strike.
In order to get paid leave for members to attend the event, union leaders had invited Royal Mail boss Moya Greene to come and speak. The reception she received was neither welcoming nor polite. The huge hall burst into laughter as Greene claimed she could not see any reason for an industrial dispute. When she tried to dismiss Royal Mail’s culture of bullying management and described the pay offer as fair she was heckled and booed.
Billy Hayes, the union’s general secretary, won huge applause for calling on Labour to pledge to renationalise Royal Mail. He condemned Ed Miliband for failing to do so in his recent TUC address. But a number of speakers from the floor questioned the union’s affiliation to Labour. One rep from the Eastern no. 3 region described Miliband as a “plasticine leader”. Another from the southwest struck a chord saying, “If they don’t pledge to renationalise we should be taking our money out now”.
After deputy general secretary Dave Ward laid out the union’s strategy some reps questioned what kind of industrial action it would involve. They said many members “feel it wasn’t enough in 2009” and “will remember they were disappointed when action was called off”. Ward assured the mass reps meeting, “If we call a 24 hour strike, we want that to coincide with the biggest national demonstration of postal workers since 1971. And to coincide with action by members in Post Office Limited who have been out 11 times this year.”
Billy Hayes added, “If there’s a victory for postal workers that’ll give heart to others in this country under attack”. Dave Ward said, “The fight is not over because of what the government say. We’ll decide when the fight is over—you’ll decide when the fight is over.”
Postal workers need to now build the biggest possible YES vote for strikes in the ballot this month and keep up pressure on union leaders for the kind of action that can win.
Unite the Resistance’s conference “Organising to Win” on 19 October is the perfect opportunity to start this process and link up with activists from other unions. Billy Hayes will be speaking. Already several reps and activists are booked up to the conference from the CWU Oxford branch, which is now set to strike locally on 27 September.
For more information and to register click here