Socialist Worker

Bootle anti-racist postal walkout ends after bosses use strikebreakers and injunction

by Charlie Kimber
Issue No. 2676

Solidarity for Bootle from CWU North West region on Tuesday

Solidarity for Bootle from CWU North West region on Tuesday (Pic: CWU North West Region)


An unofficial strike over alleged racism and victimisation has ended after Royal Mail bosses used strikebreakers and a court injunction.

It's a disgrace that a company that claims to care about equality acted in this way. The union leaders should have escalated and broadened the strike, not backed off.

The action started when 50 workers in the CWU union at Merseyside’s Bootle and Seaforth delivery office struck on Wednesday of last week. It was in response to an alleged racist comment made by a manager to a Muslim worker.

Two days later hundreds of workers at the Warrington mail centre, the North West hub and another office walked out in solidarity.

The strike spread to Warrington after drivers from the mail centre were suspended for refusing to cross the picket line at Bootle.

Workers at the Warrington offices returned after the drivers were fully reinstated and given back pay.

They will not be asked to cross picket lines in the future.

But the strike continued at Bootle this week.

In a massive and near-unprecedented escalation, bosses sent in strikebreakers on Tuesday. They have been variously reported as agency workers and managers.

Cops were on hand to usher in the scabs.

Security

On Tuesday the North West region of the CWU said, “Visited the Bootle picket line this morning. It appears that some Royal Mail managers are making spurious allegations against the picket and using the police as if it was their own private security firm.

“This is their seventh day on strike. If one of our members had been accused of making racial comments they would have been suspended on the spot. But the same rule does not apply to managers.”

But on Wednesday, following an injunction served by the courts to the CWU the previous night, the Bootle strike was called off and strikers returned to work on Wednesday morning.

Royal Mail workers: fighting a package of attacks
Royal Mail workers: fighting a package of attacks
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The issue which brought them out on strike has not been resolved.

Speaking to Socialist Worker last week, one CWU member in the Bootle office said, “We stand up for one another, that’s the rule here.

“We are not going to let managers use any sort of attacks to weaken us.

“There are people from different backgrounds here but we are all workers and trade union members and we know to stick together or we’re lost.

 “I don’t want to go back to working with a manager who stands accused of racism. Racism is something for trade unions to take up and oppose.”

The unofficial action came as CWU members across Britain vote on whether to strike over Royal Mail plans to attack their conditions and slash jobs.

The ballot closes next Tuesday. All the signs are that a hugely energetic campaign will deliver a very big vote for strikes—well over the Tories’ 50 percent turnout threshold.

It must then be turned into effective action as soon as possible.

The Bootle post strikers have given a lesson on how to bring anti-racism into the workplace.

And they have shown how anti-racism is crucial to working class unity.

But the use of scabs and injunctions is a big challenge to the union. There should have been mass pickets at Bootle, and solidarity walkouts.

The use of strike breakers cannot be allowed to become routine. If it does they may be used at key moments in any local or national dispute.

There were attempts to do this in the 2009 London strike. This was met with protests.

It was wrong to back off in Bootle.

Thanks for reporting by John Carr


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