Socialist Worker

Counter attack

Issue No. 1721

Postal workers

Counter attack

By a Post office counter worker

HUNDREDS OF angry post office counter clerks walked out on an unofficial 24-hour strike at post offices all over London on Thursday of last week against the use of casual labour. It was the first illegal large-scale unofficial action of counter staff for many years.

Without consulting the Communication Workers Union, Post Office Network bosses have broken national staffing agreements by recruiting 250 casuals from the Blue Arrow Agency to cover the busy Christmas period. This is the thin end of the wedge in the bosses' attempt to downgrade hard-won pay, terms and conditions.

Staff at four offices in east London, including Canning Town, Poplar and Roman Road, had already walked out when management brought in casuals on the Monday before the strike. This forced the national personnel director of Post Office Network to fly back from holiday in Amsterdam to attend emergency talks on Wednesday of last week. Although the union won important concessions the meeting ended without a satisfactory agreement.

Management got the shock of their lives when hundreds of workers walked out on Thursday. In south east London 21 out of 23 offices were closed and some 200 strikers attended a mass meeting. Across the capital many other offices were shut down or understaffed. The CWU now plans to hold a ballot for official strike action that could shut all London's offices down completely in the crucial run-up to Christmas. CWU branches must now call meetings and campaign all out for a massive yes vote in the ballot.

Such action can not only beat back the threat of casualisation but also turn the tide against management's relentless onslaught, and defend jobs, conditions and public services.


POSTAL WORKERS in Edinburgh walked out repeatedly last week to defend their conditions and save their colleagues from victimisation. Royal Mail bosses are now trying to put the pressure on key activists. The unofficial walkouts on Monday, Tuesday, Friday and Saturday of last week involved up to 400 workers.

The action began when about 60 staff at one of the delivery offices based in Brunswick Road walked out after a colleague was suspended over a row about changes to deliveries. Management told workers to deal with the backlog instead of going out on the second delivery-and then suspended an employee who refused to help. The next day the strike spread to Leith and Comely Bank.

Another 250 staff also walked out because of the delay in making a decision about the suspended man's disciplinary case. In a separate incident, about 60 staff at Edinburgh airport and others at the mail centre in Sighthill staged a brief walkout on Friday morning after a driver was suspended for disobeying an instruction. They went back to work when the suspension was lifted. Royal Mail has accused Edinburgh CWU union branch officials Derek Durkin and Alex McGowan of refusing to tell staff to work.

An Edinburgh CWU member told Socialist Worker, "There is a massive feeling of resentment about the way management are trying to push people around. "They accuse our union reps of behaving wrongly, but the bullies are in the managers' offices." Derek Durkin has recently been selected to fight Edinburgh East for the Scottish Socialist Party at the next general election.

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Sat 4 Nov 2000, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1721
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