AROUND 130 postal workers in Bridgwater, Somerset, are on all-out, indefinite, unofficial strike. They are taking action in protest against management's broken promises and relentless harassment.
The strikers' mass picket was joined last week by firefighters who came to pledge their solidarity with the striking postal workers. CWU rep Dave Chapple told Socialist Worker, 'We want a 40-hour week instead of the 41.5 hours we do now.
'We were promised this repeatedly, but there has been no action to implement it, and now the manager says it won't happen until next year. We want the shorter working week now.' Workers are also angry that management is refusing to pay overtime when delivery staff do extra duties like covering when someone is off sick.
A CWU union member at the office says, 'The bosses' attitude now is that everyone should simply work harder without extra money. 'At strong offices there is a tradition that you get overtime for these duties. At weak ones you don't get the cash. We want the money. In the background to these demands is a huge rise in management supervision at the office. Normally at Bridgwater there are three managers. At times in recent months there have been 12!
They have wandered round with walkie-talkies tracking individual postal workers. 'You can hear them saying, 'He's going to the toilet, he's approaching the canteen',' reports a postal worker. Managers also use their cars to follow delivery workers and check up on them. In another petty move, management have locked the smoking room and insisted that workers prove they are working at sufficient pace before it is opened.
In perhaps the most bizarre move a cook was threatened with disciplinary action for serving a union rep with a bowl of Special K rather than a piece of toast! The Bridgwater strike is another sign of a welcome return to the willingness of postal workers to take action to defend their rights. Every CWU member should get behind the strike, especially as management are likely to move against Dave Chapple, a well respected union activist, if they can.
CWU national union officials have repudiated the strike. It is up to rank and file members to match the energy, determination and courage of the Bridgwater strikers.
E-mail solidarity messages to email@example.com
POSTAL workers across Britain in the Cash Handling and Distribution section (CHD) start a strike ballot this week.
The Post Office wants to sell CHD to Securicor, a full privatisation that will affect 3,000 workers. The entire postal membership would start voting over the same issue on 12 November with the result on 26 November.
Action involving both groups of workers could begin from December.
ROYAL MAIL has signed its first deal to deliver mail for a private firm, Deutsche Post. Deutsche Post will sort the mail and then pay Royal Mail to deliver it. Royal Mail called the agreement 'groundbreaking'.
The deal is a direct threat to every postal worker. Private firms can come in, collect mail and then get it sorted by casual and non-union staff. This will be used to undermine CWU members' jobs and conditions. The next phase in the process is due to come in January, when private sector firms will be invited to bid for bulk mail delivery contracts. They can grab as much as 30 percent of the total letters market.