CWU postal workers’ union members at the Oxford mail centre walked out spontaneously at lunchtime on Wednesday of last week.
Everyone was up in arms when they received a letter telling them that management had imposed the pay deal.
Around 80 to 100 processing and distribution workers started off the action by going to the car park and seeking a meeting with their union reps.
They wanted to know why management had effectively derecognised their union by imposing the pay deal.
They wanted to know why management were contemptuously ignoring the legal democracy of the union.
Workers assembled in the car park and called for management to explain themselves.
In return they got a series of threats. They were told “this’ll turn nasty” and that pay would be stopped.
While workers were discussing a return to work, they were told they had to have a formal meeting with management first.
They were told they would have to work through their meal breaks, unpaid, and have their pay stopped.
All the exits around them were blocked with managers.
Then the workers were marched like cattle up to “carpet avenue”, the management section.
Here they were put in a crowded room – on a very hot day – with no access to a toilet.
A manager came to see them eventually.
Around 40 people got their letters about the pay deal and threw them across the table to him.
The workers marched out. They made it clear that if anyone laid a hand on them then they would call the police to arrest them for assault.
Members then decided to expand their protest.
They held a sit-in for one hour while their reps negotiated.
Faced with the sit-in, management said they would pay workers for some of the time of the protest.
This issue isn’t over nationally because we want to see a pay deal properly negotiated, not imposed, or we will strike.
And locally there are also other issues.
We have taken out bullying and harassment claims against a manager for the way he behaved towards a woman member of staff.
Management have taken away union facility time for 28 days, as they usually do after any dispute nowadays.
But that will rebound on them because they need us to negotiate the “efficiency savings” they want.
Not that we should be in that business when we are being treated so arrogantly over basic pay.
Noel Fay is the former branch secretary of Oxfordshire postal (now South Central No 1) CWU branch.