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No ‘truce’ in Exeter

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Issue 1763

Postal workers

No ‘truce’ in Exeter

AN UNOFFICIAL strike stopped the Exeter mail centre last week.

It began as a dispute over the use of temporary workers and then became a battle against victimisations.

The strike is specially notable because it took place during the “truce period” recommended by the Sawyer report into industrial relations in the Post Office.

On Wednesday of last week 15 distribution drivers staged a spontaneous walkout. By midnight practically all of the mail centre and the main delivery office had also struck in solidarity.

Pickets were almost entirely successful in persuading drivers from other offices not to cross picket lines.

Other mail centres, such as Plymouth, Bristol and Cardiff, refused to handle mail diverted from Exeter.

In a remarkable show of strength, Exeter workers refused to go back to work despite intimidation by management, and threats of disciplinary action.

The dispute was sparked by the actions of the area manager, who simply imposed a decision over seven temporary driving vacancies.

Management wanted to fill these posts with temps recruited from outside the business. The union wanted to keep three of the vacancies open for workers presently at the mail centre.

While talks were supposed to be taking place, workers learned that seven temps had been recruited. So they walked out.

The area manager refused to negotiate with the strikers. It became obvious that the strike had been deliberately provoked as a way of trying to smash what is regarded by bosses as the “militant” arm of the South West No 1 branch.

The CWU national leadership managed to break all records by repudiating the unofficial strike only 45 minutes after the initial walkout.

Their letter to each individual, condemning the strike and threatening dire consequences, only served to strengthen the resolve of those who took part to stay out until their demands were met.

We demanded that management negotiated with the CWU over the numbers of temporary drivers, and that there should be no victimisation or disciplinary action taken against anyone who participated in the strike.

After lengthy negotiations an agreement which the CWU negotiators believed achieved the demands was put to a gathering of about 200 strikers. There were many angry contributions from the drivers. The vote to return to work was carried by a majority of only 20.

Many complained that the meeting was held without sufficient time to enable the early and night shift to attend.

A big minority wanted to stay out until a full settlement had been reached because they did not trust management to honour the agreement.

However, all members returned to work as they had left-together.

The negotiations on the number of temporary drivers ended on Friday of last week without agreement being reached. Exeter workers have called for an official strike ballot.



MALCOLM SAUNDERS, the chief officer of Merseyside fire brigade, is reneging on the deal which ended the recent strike by FBU union members.

The management have launched a nasty campaign against individual firefighters and union activists.

A senior union official faces disciplinary charges for his role in seeking to represent an officer who was dragged into a meeting with Saunders for taking part in the strike.

This is a clear sign that Saunders remains determined to break the union. He must be met with the same fighting response as last time.

Mick Navarro, Merseyside FBU brigade secretary, told Socialist Worker, “We are looking to start a fresh ballot for strike action at the end of this week if there is no retreat from management and the fire authority.”

Scottish Power

ELECTRICITY supply workers at Scottish Power are due to hold mass meetings on 1 September to discuss their response to management’s attempt to break the company up.

The company is planning to create a new company to deal with the wire business (power cables and lines).

This is a major threat to conditions in one of the best organised sections in the power industry.

One senior shop steward said, “The anger amongst workers is tremendous. “Workers feel betrayed and angry. Management have been given a roasting in every team briefing where they have tried to sell the deal. Everyone knows if this happens our pay and conditions will get much worse.”

Union officials and senior stewards say they will recommend rejection of the deal and a ballot for all-out strike action.

Palestinian rights

OVER 80 people protested outside the Israeli embassy in London on Thursday of last week against Israel’s occupation of Orient House, the Palestinian headquarters in Jerusalem


Dundee fights Nazis

“I DON’T care who they are-the Daily Record, the Tory party or the Labour Party-they should be condemned for playing into the hands of the racists.”

Those were the angry words of John McAllion, Labour MSP for Dundee East, about those who whipped up the racist mood that led to the recent murder of asylum seeker Firsat Yildiz.

John McAllion was speaking at the well attended public meeting organised by the Anti Nazi League in Dundee on Thursday night.

Over 45 people from across the community came to the meeting, bringing trade union banners from Tayside GMB public service branch and Dundee Trades Council. Barry Jackson for the Council of Jewish Communities in Scotland reminded people of the similarities between the way asylum seekers today are treated and the treatment of the Jews when they came to Scotland.

Aamer Anwar, anti-racist activist and lawyer for the Chhokar Defence Campaign, defended those who fought against racism by reminding everyone that “if we don’t react the police won’t act”.

He called on people to get involved in all the various campaigns to defeat fascists and racists.

He condemned Glasgow council for its complacency in ignoring warnings about the rise of racism and Nazi activity in Sighthill, where refugees were located. The BNP have clearly targeted Scotland for activity and recruitment over the next months and years. But the meeting demonstrated how a broad anti-fascist campaign, based upon mass action, can be built to stop them.



PROTESTS against forced dispersal of asylum seekers are gaining momentum in the north west of England.

The disperal of asylum seekers to Oldham and Glasgow has now been halted. This follows the refusal of asylum seekers to get on the coaches, and a sit-in by asylum seekers in a Liverpool hostel.

Twenty protesters from the Manchester Committee to Defend Asylum Seekers assembled at the dispersal point on Monday of last week to stop the weekly coach used for forced dispersal.

The bussing has now been temporarily suspended.

However, some asylum seekers are still forcibly dispersed, and have their vouchers withdrawn when they refuse to be moved.

Sympathetic local TV coverage has encouraged campaigners to continue the protests until all forced dispersals are stopped.



Saturday 25 August

Assemble 11am, Huntingdon Square, Sighthill for march to George Square

Organised by community groups and representatives of asylum seekers

Housing campaigns

A 400-strong meeting of UNISON union housing members in Birmingham has decided that they will not cooperate with the city council’s plans to sell off 88,000 council homes.

The meeting agreed that UNISON members are not prepared to be part of the council’s one-sided propaganda campaign.

A speaker from the Defend Council Housing campaign highlighted the need for tenants and workers to be united in a joint campaign.

Council workers agreed to leaflet their estates and show their opposition at the council’s privatisation roadshow.


  • SOME 35 PEOPLE came to the first Defend Council Housing (DCH) meeting on the Aylesbury estate in Southwark, south London, last week.

The meeting heard speeches from local tenants, activists and John Mulrenan, the local Socialist Alliance candidate in the recent election. The meeting was very angry.

The council is proposing to hand over 2,700 properties to Horizon Housing Association, despite a successful campaign to stop the local council privatising all of its housing stock last year.


Council workers

Defend Richard Searle

RICHARD SEARLE, a UNISON union housing convenor and member of the Defend Council Housing national committee, has been suspended from his job as a case worker in the Homeless Families Unit of Manchester City Council.

This is a political suspension and an attack on trade union rights.

Richard has been suspended for speaking to the press on behalf of UNISON. Over the last few months there has been a crisis in temporary accommodation in Manchester.

Things are so bad that consideration was given to offering a family a police cell as temporary accommodation.

Richard, in his capacity as UNISON housing convenor, was contacted by the press to confirm this story.

He was then suspended on Friday of last week while in the middle of a homeless investigation.

Richard is an experienced case worker and is committed to getting the best deal for the homeless. He has been involved with tenant campaigners and helped lead the strike earlier this year in Manchester against the closure of 14 local housing offices.

  • Messages of support can be faxed to the UNISON branch office on 0161 254 7515.
  • Fax letters of protest to the lead executive member for housing, Councillor Basil Curley, on 0161 234 4232.


  • THE CAMPAIGN is growing to win reinstatement for UNISON activist Noah Tucker, who was sacked last week by Labour-controlled Hackney council in east London.

A workers’ mass meeting last week voted unanimously for a ballot for industrial action. It is expected to begin next Tuesday.

The allegations against Noah are farcical. They are that he failed to be at work-because he was negotiating with management!

For nearly a year Hackney council has been in full-scale confrontation with residents and workers over a cuts programme.

A major anti-cuts and solidarity with Noah Tucker rally is planned for 18 September.

  • Send messages of support and donations to Hackney UNISON, Third Floor, Netil House, 1-7 Westgate Street, London E8. UNISON members want to speak at union meetings-contact them at the address above or phone 020 8356 4071.
  • WAKEFIELD’S New Labour council caused outrage last week when it announced plans to slash 1.9 million from the social services budget.

The effects of the cuts would be to close all three daycare centres for the elderly in the district, close respite and rehabilitation beds, and cut 69 carers’ jobs.

The local Socialist Alliance has launched a petition and called a lobby of the next council meeting on 12 September.

Derek Bennett funeral

FLOWERS FROM Derek Bennett’s workmates

SOME 250 people attended the funeral of Derek Bennett last Saturday. Derek, a 29 year old unarmed black man, was shot dead by the police in Brixton, south London, last month.

Everyone was united in their grief and desire for justice. Distraught relatives, friends and work colleagues were joined by wellwishers. One mourner said, “I didn’t know Derek. I am here because I know his dad and we used to work together at Ford’s.”

Derek Bennett’s brother Anthony told mourners, “Derek encountered police officers who fired six bullets. They shot Derek four times in his back. No one can tell me that isn’t murder.”

Campaigns round-up

  • IF GLASGOW City Council thought that sending in 250 police to smash the occupation of Govanhill Pool would stop the campaign, it has made a massive mistake.

On the morning after the battle, campaigners rebuilt their picket outside the baths and planned a meeting for that evening. Some 200 people gathered outside for a public meeting and then marched to the pool.

The following day 80 people marched to the city chambers to demand the resignation of Glasgow council leader Charlie Gordon.

Onlookers and supporters cheered as protesters hammered on the council’s door. Over 80 people also attended a public meeting the following day.


  • ANGRY residents of King Stephen Close in Exeter, along with supporters of Exeter Socialist Alliance, held a protest last week against an illegal fence built by building firm Barratt.

They removed a padlocked gate that was preventing their children from playing on a communal green.

The fence has been dubbed “Barratt’s Berlin Wall”. Angry resident Eddie Choules said, “Why are Barratt allowed to get away with flouting the planning laws?”


  • AROUND 80 angry anti-incinerator protesters marched in Neath, South Wales, earlier this month against the giant incinerator being built in the small village of Crymlyn Burrows.

And 50 people crowded into a local hall recently to hear pollution expert Dr Dick Van Steenus.

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