Battle lines drawn in the post
Strike to stop sexist abuse
A POSTAL workers' strike spread across a large part of Scotland at the start of this week. Over 1,000 workers at the giant office in the Springburn area of Glasgow struck on Monday when a manager returned to the office despite being disciplined for sexually harassing a 16 year old woman. By Tuesday afternoon some 25 offices in the West of Scotland had joined the action.
The strike at Springburn was launched by a group of 40 women workers who refused to work with the manager. There were 300 CWU union members on the picket line on Tuesday. One picket told Socialist Worker, "Royal Mail has a total double standard. If you're a worker, especially if you're an activist, and you so much as sneeze at the wrong moment then you'll be disciplined and up for the sack. "But if you're a manager then you can get away with anything. We want this man sacked, off the premises and out of the post entirely."
Disgracefully, the national union leaders instantly repudiated the strike. But postal workers in other parts of Scotland and in the rest of Britain were preparing to support Glasgow strikers by blacking their mail. This is a crucial struggle which shows that it is workers who really care about equality in the workplace. A victory will be a real blow against bullying management.
ABOUT 350 postal workers in Bedford struck for 24 hours last week after management attacked arrangements for deliveries. "There are provisions to cover emergencies, which have become the norm" a Bedford CWU union member told Socialist Worker. "Essentially they are trying to undermine the second delivery."
The strike forced concessions. Management has agreed to create some new jobs and to protect essential elements of the normal delivery structure.
ABOUT 60 postal workers from 14 union branches met last weekend to discuss the implications of recent unofficial strikes, and how to defend activists from victimisation and bullying.
The meeting was called by the Liverpool, Oxford and South East Wales branches. The turnout was excellent, despite a sustained propaganda campaign by national leaders to stop people going. The meeting heard repeated accounts of management's bullying.
A worker from Crewe told how during a recent dispute, when Crewe workers had not done the work of the striking Liverpool office, management had taken aside a few workers and pressured them to start scabbing. One worker was so harassed he was physically sick.
Another was told, "You know that mortgage application I signed for you this week? If you don't start working I'll have it off you." But to their great credit Crewe workers stood firm.
Eight union reps are under disciplinary investigation after the recent Oxford strike, and one worker has been sacked in Crewe. In Cardiff management tried to discipline a rep for "putting on their coat in a provocative way".
An Oxford CWU member told the meeting, "I've always recognised we have two enemies. One is obviously the Post Office, but the other is our national union leaders. There are elements in our union who would be quite happy to see a cull of activists. They regard the people who fight back as an 'irritant'." The meeting did not take formal decisions. But there was a general consensus to campaign for the union to launch a national strike ballot if there are any sackings as a result of strikes.
London prepares for a fight
LONDON COULD be hit by major official post strikes in the run-up to the general election. Workers at the East London Mail Centre in Whitechapel have voted for action in response to management's failure to keep to national agreements, its refusal to follow the industrial relations framework, and because of a dispute over working practices.
At the same time workers at the NDO office in London are to vote on strikes over the threatened closure of their office and the loss of 1,300 jobs locally. Ballots are also happening in other parts of the capital. The votes come as the government took another step towards privatising the Post Office this week.
Confrontation between a militant, well organised workforce and the government is coming closer. The Post Office formally changed its name to Consignia on Monday of this week as it received an operating licence from the postal regulator (PostComm) to deliver mail.
Consignia will have the structures of a public limited company. The regulator could have announced at the same time that he was allowing private firms to start delivering mail. But to PostComm and the government's intense embarrassment, not a single private operator has applied for a licence at this stage of bidding.
This makes a nonsense of the claim often heard from New Labour and the Post Office that dozens of companies have the capacity to take on the Post Office. However, several big firms are preparing to move into lucrative parts of the market, but only if they get more concessions from the government.
The threat of competition is being used in an effort to break resistance by postal workers to speed-ups, "flexibility" and worse conditions. A CWU union member at the East London Mail Centre told Socialist Worker this week, "Management think that all they have to do is say 'the regulator' and we'll hide in the corner. I can assure them that it isn't going to work like that."
CWU national leaders are running scared of the government and the regulator. It is up to the rank and file and the local leaderships to step up and coordinate the resistance which has proved successful in beating back management's attacks.
POST WORKER, written by rank and file postal workers, is available from 0958 478 631