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Unofficial strike action ‘sparked by management provocation’

This article is over 16 years, 10 months old
During a week of official function strikes, a spate of unofficial post strikes broke out across Britain last week.
Issue 2063

During a week of official function strikes, a spate of unofficial post strikes broke out across Britain last week.

Most were the result of management provocation and attempts to force postal workers to cross picket lines of others who were on strike at that time.

Walkouts spread from Glasgow after workers from the St Rollox mail centre walked out on Tuesday of last week after drivers who had refused to cross picket lines at Edinburgh airport were docked pay. The strike spread to other areas of Scotland and to Newcastle.

In Liverpool the Copperas Hill mail centre was also out unofficially, as was the mail centre at Chester.

Both took action after drivers were docked pay for refusing to cross picket lines at delivery offices.

Post workers in Glasgow and the west of Scotland voted to end their unofficial action and return to work on Thursday of last week. More than 700 postal workers attended a two hour mass meeting in Glasgow.

They debated the way forward for their dispute as well as putting questions to CWU union officials and voting at the end of the meeting by a proportion of around five to two to return to work without a return to work agreement.

Workers at the meeting were rightly proud of the strength of their action and the solidarity they had shown in refusing to cross picket lines and in walking out in support of colleagues.

Most postal workers at the mass meeting agreed that management had deliberately provoked the unofficial action.

Phil Browne from the CWU executive and several others argued that this meant that the union members should seize the initiative back from the management by returning to work and continuing with the union’s ongoing programme of national strike action.

Area distribution rep Andy Bell told Socialist Worker that they had met with management for four hours on Wednesday.

He said that management didn’t appear to be serious about negotiating a return to work: “Management were supposed to get back to us yesterday afternoon, but as of 2pm today we still haven’t heard from them. I think they want unofficial action.”

He added that he thought the meeting had made the right decision to go back: “There are a lot of families with mortgages to pay and they are losing a lot of money. And we be will wrongfooting management by going back.”

But some at the meeting felt that it was wrong to go back without winning assurances from management about pay, conditions on return and guarantees of no suspensions.

A number of workers from the St Rollox mail centre spoke to Socialist Worker as they were leaving the meeting. One said, “What are we going back for? We’re no further on than we were when we walked out.”

Another added, “We haven’t resolved the issue of picket lines – we are still not going to cross picket lines by other post workers.”

Several people at the meeting raised questions about the functional action.

In particular there was anger that it often puts postal workers in a position where management expect them to cross picket lines by other groups of post workers that are striking.

An unofficial walkout on Monday at a number of Swindon delivery offices and the mail centre has won the reinstatement of two workers. They had been moved from their offices for disciplinary reasons.

This led to walkouts at the offices concerned, the delivery section attached to the mail centre, and then the mail centre itself. Within hours they had been returned to their offices. “This was a good result, and an indication that Royal Mail are vulnerable to such action,” said a Swindon CWU member.

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