By Charlie Kimber
RECENT BATTLES in the post have revealed new tactics by both Royal Mail and the national CWU union officials. Activists need to organise to face a new challenge.
Around the beginning of the year unofficial action, backed up by solidarity from other offices, won significant victories in, for example, Cardiff and Liverpool. Management then raised the stakes by saying that in future they would consider dismissing anyone taking unofficial action. At the same time national CWU union officials stopped simply denouncing "illegal" action and instead offered official ballots as soon as anyone walked out.
So the pattern of disputes at Glasgow (the strike against sexual harassment), Nottingham and Greenford has been as follows-workers walk out, bosses threaten dismissal, union officials arrive and emphasise management threats but also offer the possibility of a legal strike ballot. This tactic has helped the Post Office to blunt some of the more recent strikes. Unless activists are aware of this new situation and organise to stop sell-outs then rank and file organisation in the post could suffer a setback. That would be disastrous as a national confrontation looms.
The danger of the strategy is that it breaks the momentum of action and leaves all the initiative in the hands of union leaders. Often, as in Glasgow, they will then try to wriggle out even of having a ballot, let alone a strike. It took a local rebellion in Glasgow to get a ballot, and it has only just begun to be organised weeks after the original strike.
Then, as the ballot was about to begin this week, it was again delayed when managers threatened to sack 18 workers at a specialist sorting office in Wishaw, Lanarkshire. There are problems even if ballots go ahead, are won, and the national union calls a strike.
Royal Mail will then move the mail to offices elsewhere. Are these workers supposed to do strikers' work while waiting for another ballot? It is time to reassert the old traditions of walking out and staying out until a decent settlement is secured. That has been the formula for success in the post in recent years.
And rank and file militancy and organisation can also make sure that nobody gets sacked as a result of such actions.
POSTAL WORKERS in the N1 delivery section of the NDO office in north London struck officially for 24 hours last week. Not a single worker crossed the picket line.
The dispute is over a range of attacks, and a further 24-hour strike is planned next week. The expected strike ballot, covering the entire north and north west London workforce, over the closure of NDO has been delayed after management offered temporary concessions and more talks.
Management are worried, but it is dangerous to keep putting off the ballot. There is a mood to fight now, and it should be used to win a complete victory.
MARCH TO DEFEND NDO
Saturday 26 May Assemble 11.30am, Gibson Square, off Upper Street, Islington, London