How it started
THIS WEEK'S rolling postal strike began when thousands of postal workers struck unofficially across north west England from Friday of last week. They were refusing to scab on their workmates who were on official strike for 24 hours in Watford. Royal Mail's tactics were a declaration of war, and a direct confrontation with rank and file union activists. As the Watford strike began, management insisted that Liverpool's Copperas Hill, one of the best organised offices in Britain, must do work for Watford.
Quite rightly, Liverpool workers refused. Six were suspended and the rest walked out. Similar issues sparked a walkout in Stockport. By Saturday morning 800 were on strike in Liverpool and 400 in Stockport. A mass meeting overwhelmingly threw out a deal which would have meant workers doing any work they were instructed to, including work from striking offices.
So Royal Mail escalated the dispute again. On Monday management instructed Merseyside delivery staff to report to Copperas Hill to take over sorting work. They refused, and joined the strike.
Stockport delivery offices also came out solidly, and over 3,500 workers were on strike by Monday evening. On Tuesday around 600 Liverpool workers voted unaminously to keep up the dispute. A CWU local official told Socialist Worker, "The union executive member who came to the meeting instructed us to go back to work. But members were not going to let that happen.
"One said, 'Is the union more concerned with its funds than its members?' He got loud applause. I think this dispute has seen clear provocation from either local or national management." Another CWU member said,"We've been feeling for some time this has been coming. They want to destroy the union. "Locally they've obviously had guidance from top managment." A meeting at Stockport also endorsed the continuation of the strike. Royal Mail went to the courts on Tuesday accussing CWU executive member Pat O'Hara of "inciting unlawful industrial action".
His supposed crime was to have failed to denounce the Merseyside rebellion at a previous mass meeting. The case was adjourned, and was due to be heard in the High Court on Wednesday of this week.
THE WATFORD strike which sparked the Liverpool walkout was a response to a regime of intimidation, bullying and relentless work pressure.
Dave Baulch, branch chair of Watford CWU, told Socialist Worker, "The strike was a continuation of a campaign by us which has been going on for three months. We face draconian shift patterns." New work arrangements in the office have meant:
- 12 weeks of working up to ten hours every Saturday.
- 12 weeks of being refused the chance to have a soft drink while at work.
- 12 weeks of not receiving a penny in bonus payments.
- 12 weeks of managers treating the staff with contempt.
On Friday of last week 850 workers struck solidly.
They were outraged to discover that bosses drafted in to do some of their work had been allowed 2,000 of free food and drink in the canteen. This is at the same time as there is only one water cooler for 250 workers on the sorting floor because Royal Mail "cannot afford more". Workers were also furious with their union leaders. A manager told them that the union head office had promised there would be no more strikes. "What right does anyone have to say that over our heads?" said one of the pickets.
Watford workers have also retaken control of their negotiations from John Keggie, the union's deputy general secretary.
Take to the streets
POSTAL WORKERS and their supporters will march in London this weekend. The protest is over the planned closure of the NDO office. But it is an excellent opportunity for all postal workers to voice their concerns and get together to discuss the fightback.
Save Islington sorting office Demonstrate Saturday 26 May Assemble 11.30am, Gibson Square, off Upper Street, Islington, London Rally with speakers including John Keggie (CWU deputy general secretary) and Labour MPs Chris Smith and Jeremy Corbyn lCalled by North/North West London CWU