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Royal Mail strikers say they’re determined to win

This article is over 1 years, 5 months old
Royal Mail workers are right to question if they can trust anything that bosses say as talks begin
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CWU union members on strike at Royal mail on the picket line. Strikers are holding pink CWU trade union flags standing in from of royal mail centre with raised fists

CWU union members picket outside Romford Royal Mail centre, east London

Royal Mail workers struck together for the last time on Tuesday before a long programme of rolling “functional action”—strikes by different sets of workers.

The action is the latest stage of the workers’ fight to save the future of their jobs. It comes as CWU union leaders began talks with bosses at mediation service Acas. But union leaders say they are still a long way from an agreement, and strikers are still prepared for a long fight.

“We’re still together,” Trad, a striker in Stratford, east London, told Socialist Worker. “We’re not looking forward to all these strikes but we’re not going to let them walk all over us.”

“It’s going to be ongoing as far as we can see,” another striker at Stratford said. “There doesn’t seem to be any movement from Royal Mail. We’ll see what comes out of the talks with Acas but according to our leader Dave Ward we’re poles apart.”

The workers began their fight after bosses forced a pay increase of just 2 percent on them—a massive real terms pay cut.

But the battle quickly became a fight to defend the future of their jobs as chief executive Simon Thompson launched an assault on working conditions. He threatened 10,000 job cuts if he doesn’t get his way.

Since then, union leaders say they’ve had positive talks with other Royal Mail bosses, only for Thompson to “sabotage” them publicly.

“We have had a number of meetings with the company. They have felt as if there’s a route to an agreement,” CWU assistant secretary Davie Robertson told Socialist Worker on a Parcelforce picket line in east London.

“Invariably what happens is we leave the room and Thompson is on social media. He disavows everything that was said and makes bold statements about the fact that the company won’t agree on anything.”

That raises the question of whether it’s right to trust anything that bosses say. Robertson added, “At a time when the company is serving notice on legal protections, ripping up national agreements, it’s very difficult as a national negotiator for me to say to anyone on this picket line that we can trust any agreement that Simon Thompson makes at the minute.”

Certainly few strikers trust Thompson—or anyone else at the top of Royal Mail. Thompson is on a mission to break up Royal Mail and turn it into a parcels company similar to Amazon or DPD—with “gig economy” style conditions to match.

But, as one striker in Stratford pointed out, that’s something the people who run Royal Mail have wanted for years. Thompson is only the latest chief executive to try and force it through.

“The person in charge is just a figurehead,” said the striker. “It’s the shareholders, the owners, whoever’s behind all that. They’re the ones who want this brought in. They want to take us down to the floor.”

He added, “The latest movement with Acas. Is this just a stalling tactic to get us to defer the strikes until after Christmas, and then they go ahead with their plans anyway? That’s what we’ve got to be wary of. I’m sure our main union leaders aren’t that stupid.”

The functional action is set to begin on Wednesday of next week, with a strike by the workers who transport mail across Britain. Mail centres and area distribution drivers are then set to strike on Thursday of next week followed by delivery workers on Friday.

That raises the question of what happens on strike days—for example, when a distribution driver not on strike arrives at a delivery office where there is a picket line.

“We don’t know exactly how it’s going to work,” said Trad. “Do they not cross the picket line, any picket line? We’ll have to sit down and work out what happens during the crossover of shifts.”

Workers hope the action—designed to cause disruption during Royal Mail’s busiest period in the run up to Christmas—will be enough to tip the balance. “This is the busy time,” Mark, a striker at Victoria Docks in east London, told Socialist Worker. “They make fortunes now.”

But bosses think they can ride the action out, and strikers also know they’ll likely have to take more. “We want this to be over as soon as possible,” Sandra, another striker at Victoria Docks said. “But we’ve got to be in it for the long haul if Thompson just rips up all the agreements anyway.”

“We’ve started off as one, and we’re going to finish as one—when we’ve won,” said Trad. “We’re getting stronger I think—people know what they’ve got to do.”

  • For the dates of the functional Royal Mail strikes in November go here

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