Socialist Worker

Four work stoppages by postal workers over coronavirus safety fears

by Nick Clark
Issue No. 2700

Swansea Parcelforce workers walked out

Swansea Parcelforce workers left thier depot (Pic: CWU Southwest Wales Amal.)


More postal workers have taken action due to fears over coronavirus safety in their Royal Mail workplaces.

Workers at two Oxfordshire delivery offices took a stand in the past week after colleagues were found to have contracted the virus.

In the East Oxford delivery office postal workers refused to work inside their building on Saturday. Bosses had to take the post outside of the office before workers would handle it.

The CWU union’s South Central Postal branch said this was “due to concerns about a suspected Covid-19 case being very closely linked to the office.”

The branch said, “The members stood up for their rights not to work in what they deemed to be an unsafe and dangerous workplace, putting themselves and their families at risk. The branch commend the action of the members.”

It added, “An intense clean is taking place and will be completed for members to enter a safe workplace by Tuesday morning.”

Dispute

The action followed a similar dispute at a delivery office in Didcot, Oxfordshire, on Wednesday.

Workers left the workplace after a colleague was found to have had the virus. Bosses contracted a cleaning company to keep clean his van. But they cleaned the office less thoroughly, and workers refused to go back in, fearing it was unsafe.

CWU rep Steve Gill said, “A member of staff has been tested for Covid-19. The van he used needed cleaning which was done by a cleaning company called Clean Safe.

“They came in and did that, but our building was cleaned by a man with a rag and a spray bottle.”

Disgracefully, bosses are treating the action as an unofficial strike—meaning the workers could lose their pay.The two incidents in Oxford are the latest in a series of actions taken by CWU members in workplaces around Britain. 

Parcelforce workers in Swansea also left their depot on Wednesday demanding improved health and safety measures.

Royal Mail workers stage unofficial walkouts over coronavirus safety
Royal Mail workers stage unofficial walkouts over coronavirus safety
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The local CWU said Royal Mail has "not been taking the situation seriously", and has failed to provide basic safety items such as masks, gloves, and hand sanitisers for workers. The union also says managers at the site have been slow to implement proper social distancing procedures.

There were also claims that when managers heard of the planned protest, one of them threatened to call police and report a social gathering.

But the protest went ahead anyway.

And Royal Mail workers in Warrington, Cheshire, walked out on Tuesday, also after a colleague contracted the virus.

One worker told the Warrington Guardian newspaper on Tuesday, “Management have told us that a ‘deep clean’ is happening overnight. When questioned what that entails, the reply was ‘hotspots like door handles’ and that is it.

“The staff are extremely concerned about spreading it around to the public, specifically the elderly and vulnerable.”

Business

Royal Mail’s top management have tried to continue with “business as usual” during the coronavirus outbreak. They have since retreated on door to door junk mail deliveries, saying leaflets will now only be delivered to people already receiving letters or parcels.

But workers in many Royal Mail offices are worried and angry at a lack of personal protective equipment and inadequate social distancing.

And with an increase in packages ordered online, and some 20 percent of the Royal Mail workforce off sick or self-isolating, workload is up.

Paul Garraway, a CWU divisional rep in Oxfordshire told Socialist Worker. “We’re starting to get some of the PPE, but we don’t have wipes yet. You’re meant to wipe down your van when you’re finished with it, but you don’t have the wipes to do it.”

He added, “It must be terrifying having to go to work every day in some of these offices. If people don’t feel safe they should remove themselves from the building.”


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