BALLOTS ON action by National Union of Journalists (NUJ) members working at Express Newspapers in London began this week. The new owner, porn baron Richard Desmond, wants to make 145 redundancies, and halve the staffing levels on the Saturday and Sunday magazines.
The laborious task of collecting names and addresses of union members within the Express building has meant weeks of delay for the ballot papers to be sent. This has given time for management to encourage 75 staff to take redundancy. But as one union member said, "Nevertheless, a strong vote for action in the ballot will make us determined to fight on."
- Express Journalist
Stamp on this closure plan
OVER 2,000 postal workers in north and north west London started a strike ballot this week against Royal Mail's closure plan. As part of a "rationalisation" scheme for London, management wants to close the NDO office (on a prime site in Islington) and move work to the new mail centre in Greenford, Middlesex.
Around 1,300 jobs would be sucked out of north London, and many of the present workforce would find it impossible to follow the work because the new office is too far away.
NDO and its sub-offices are determined to fight. An excellent public meeting in March united hundreds of workers and their supporters. All the indications are that a good campaign will return a big yes vote and open the way to an important struggle which could lead to a big official postal strike in the weeks leading up to a general election. It comes against the background of a growing feeling among postal workers that confrontation is looming nationally.
There are clear signs of the mood to fight among north London postal workers. Nearly 200 CWU members in the N1 delivery section planned an official 24-hour strike from Thursday evening this week.
They are protesting over a large range of grievances concerned with speed-ups, "flexibility", worsening of conditions and the attitude of management. On Friday of last week workers at the Barnby Street delivery office in NW1 walked out unofficially after one of their colleagues was sacked. He allegedly swore at a manager, which would normally be punished by disciplinary action short of dismissal.
This time management took a very hard line and sacked the worker. Workers went back, still defiant, after three days when they heard the union would launch a strike ballot over the issue.
Royal Mail and sections of the press have for a long time had a systematic campaign to make people believe that NDO workers are lazy and thuggish. In fact the branch has a proud record of defending public services, supporting other workers in struggle and fighting racism. They deserve the support of the entire CWU and other workers.
Save Islington sorting office
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
POST OFFICE counter clerks face a major attack on their working conditions. National officials of the workers' CWU union have reached an agreement with Post Office Network (PON) management that signs away many hard won, long-standing basic practices.
The "Joint Review" agreement, under negotiation for the past 18 months, is similar to the restructuring in Royal Mail under the "Way Forward" scheme. Last year PON overspent on its Horizon counter automation project by 500 million. Now it is forecasting annual losses of 125 million and is looking to the workforce to make savings with "greater flexibility".
PON has offered some real improvements to the union as sweeteners, such as increased holidays after 15 years work and a shorter working week. However, in return CWU negotiators have conceded to PON's core agenda. This includes a flexible attendance scheme, unpaid and shorter lunch breaks, reduced overtime rates, and less time for morning preparation, end of day summaries and till balancing.
All this means that clerks will spend much more of their working week facing the pressures of working on the counter, with reduced earnings potential. Last year's CWU conference decided that any agreement should be ratified by a special conference. Instead the executive has opted for a quick individual member ballot this month.
Many CWU activists feel that this move is designed simply to railroad the deal through. Additional ballots are also being held on minor improvements to the new bonus scheme, and on a 2.7 percent annual pay offer. Union branches should hold meetings immediately to campaign for the biggest possible no vote to send a message to CWU leaders that counter staff will not take this onslaught lying down.