Socialist Worker

Oxfordshire post strike

Issue No. 2008

Postal workers in Carterton and Witney in Oxfordshire are on unofficial strike against management bullying.

The 35 workers in Carterton walked out last week after a union health and safety rep was suspended for failing to complete his delivery round.

As laid down by procedure, he had informed the manger before he went out that the amount of mail was impossible to deliver. After finishing his time span he returned the excess mail to the office.

He was then suspended.

The 100 workers at Witney came out the next day. They have also been suffering from excessive workloads and management bullying.

Intensive talks with bosses led to an offer to reinstate the Carterton worker - but at Wantage which is 19 miles away.

An Oxfordshire CWU member told Socialist Worker, “We want the suspension lifted. We hope that other offices will realise the importance of this issue and give us the best possible support.” 

Bob Cullen, CWU area processing rep from Oxford, says, 'Relations between staff and management are getting worse, not better. I would be very surprised if strike action didn't take place in Oxford offices this week, with staff walking out in support of their colleagues.

'The amount of mail staff are being asked to deliver is increasing all the time and they feel bullied and harassed.

'The delivery round our member at Carterton was given was supposed to take three and a half hours but he was given six hours worth of mail to deliver and brought some back when he could not deliver all of it.

'They suspended him for wilful delay of the mail.'

The walkout in Witney was prompted by a grievance about the way a staff member was treated after returning to work following a long period of sick leave.

The best way to support Oxford is for other offices to show the same spirit as Carterton and Witney and walk out until the issue is resolved.

The strike comes just as a highly critical safety report has been published on Royal Mail delivery work across Britain.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) report details the findings of HSE and Local Authority Safety Inspectors during their 2004 - 2005 programme of visits and investigations.

The extremely poor accident record in Royal Mail first came to the attention of the HSE in 1999 when a steadily increasing accident rate was discovered. In 2003 which continued until 2003 when a limited number of inspections took place in Royal Mail delivery offices in various parts of the country at a time when complaints were being made by the union and safety representatives.

With no visible improvements in safety standards, a concerted inspection programme was launched by the HSE in 2004-2005 which produced the report published last week which is heavily critical of Royal Mail's health and safety management.  

The reports findings include: 

  • There exists a culture of ignoring health and safety if it impedes productivity.
  • The abolition of the second delivery was badly introduced from a health and safety point of view
  • 'Job and Finish' has led to a culture of overweight pouches to get the walks completed as quickly as possible.
  • Delivery staff were expected to cope with surfaces which would not be tolerated in industrial premises.
  • Dangerous short cuts were taken during deliveries - stepping over walls, reading whilst walking at speed due to “job and finish”.

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Article information

Sat 8 Jul 2006, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 2008
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