Socialist Worker

Northampton postal workers strike against assault on union

Issue No. 1959

Around 1,500 postal workers in Northampton are on strike in a battle for their CWU union’s future.

“This began as a struggle over our conditions at work and over issues like overtime, but now everything is at stake,” one striker told Socialist Worker.

The walkout began on the late shift on Thursday of last week. As part of the national plan to implement 4 percent cost cuts in every office, management had informed the union that they were now restricting overtime, limiting jobs and cutting hours. In addition they would now claim the right to divert mail away from Northampton to other offices without consultation. This would impact on earnings.

Workers were not prepared to accept such diktats and spontaneously walked out. Over the next 24 hours the other shifts came out. By the weekend the two Northampton delivery offices, the mail centre centre and the Wellingborough office were out.

Now came the real assault from management. They said that any return to work would have to be on the understanding that all local agreements were swept away. Overtime, holidays, bonuses and everything else would be up for grabs.

“They are effectively abolishing the union and what it has achieved,” a CWU member says.

Bosses have moved eight trailers of Northampton mail to the Crick national distribution centre, but have not yet ordered that it be touched. This is because they are fearful this will spark a wider struggle.

The events around this strike uncannily echo a major dispute in November 2003 when management carried out a similar strategy of demanding total surrender by the union after strikes in West London and Dartford. In that case spreading the action to other offices, whether or not the mail had been moved, threw back the attacks and defended the union.

A victory now would be a big boost for the union’s rank and file strength in the run-up to the bigger fight over privatisation.

With privatisation schemes on the immediate agenda of the government and Royal Mail it is vital that every postal worker rallies around Northampton.

A victory now would be a big boost for the union’s rank and file strength in the run-up to the bigger fight over privatisation.

Activists are demanding that other postal workers don’t touch any Northampton mail. The strikers can win if there is solidarity from other workers and the action is spread.

E-mail Northamptonshire CWU: [email protected]

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Sat 9 Jul 2005, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1959
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