Bullying by Royal Mail managers has reached epidemic proportions – and is a major factor behind the strikes that have swept Britain.
Postal workers have told Socialist Worker that their workplaces have become places where threats, malicious allegations and deliberate attempts to intimidate workers are commonplace.
“It’s not uncommon for two or three managers to gang up on one worker, take them into an office and shout at them as though they were army sergeant majors,” says Greg Charles, a CWU union branch secretary in south west London.
“It’s all part of their attempt to get more work out of less people.
“Once in the office, managers threaten people who have been unable to complete new delivery rounds with having their pay stopped, or even with ‘wilful delay of the mail’, which is a sackable offence.
“I’ve got two postal workers in my area who are facing this charge.”
The story is all too familiar to Barry, a delivery worker in north London. He faced dismissal after a computer simulation issued him a new delivery round, known as a “walk”, that he could not complete within his working hours.
“They started me on the new walk earlier this year,” he told Socialist Worker. “When I realised that it could not be done in the time allotted, I followed procedure and rang my manager to explain.
“I said that there was too much mail and that the route made no sense. But they didn’t want explanations. They’re just like some of the teachers I had at school – they’re just bullies.
“When I got back to my office the top manager shouted, ‘I want him in the office. Now!’.”
As management moved to sack him, Barry decided to call his mum for advice.
“She told me to get on to the union, which I did. My union rep saved my job and through that I learned that sticking together is the only way.”
But the pressure at work has affected Barry, who has been at Royal Mail for almost a decade.
“I used to love this job,” he says. “But now I hate it, and all I can think about is getting it finished and getting home.
“Managers have dangled a carrot of overtime in front of me if I finish my walk in my own time, but I don’t care about that. After all, some things are more important than money.”
Management elsewhere have attempted to undermine strikes in the hope that this will clear the way for more attacks on working conditions.
Union activists in Plymouth told Socialist Worker that bosses there repeatedly phoned and sent text messages to union members falsely claiming that their strikes are “illegal”, and that there would be “consequences” for those that took action.
And in London, Greg is one of many reps whose union facility time has been removed, with bosses clearly hoping that this will weaken the union.
“Sure, it makes it harder to get around the different offices I cover, but as a plan it’s completely backfired,” he says.
“It hasn’t intimidated our reps, and my colleagues have even decided to take on some of my work to give me time to help prepare the strike.
“In many ways, management’s attacks have strengthened the union.”
An important new book
Activists say why they're marching
Palestinian activist speaks of his experience