By Nick Clark
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Royal Mail workers say ‘we’re fighting for our futures’ on fourth day of strikes

This article is over 1 years, 6 months old
Over 115,000 Royal Mail workers staged a solid strike over pay and conditions
Issue 2825
Royal mail workers on the picketline in Brixton holding a pink CWU banner which reads Honk if you back us  and a placard which reads on strike for fair pay

Royal Mail workers stage a solid picket line in Brixton (Picture: Guy Smallman)

Workers in Royal Mail hit back with two more days of strikes starting on Friday, after bosses launched a fresh attack on their jobs last week. And on Saturday, they will strike together with rail workers across the country.

Friday’s walkout was the fourth day of strikes by members of the CWU union in two linked disputes over pay and conditions. The strikers are fighting to overturn a massive real terms pay cut—but also to defend the future of their jobs. 

Bosses last week declared plans to break the power of union organisation and tear up years’ worth of agreements protecting hard-won working conditions.

It’s part of a bigger plan to turn Royal Mail into a parcels business similar to courier companies such as Amazon—with worse conditions to match. 

They include later start and finish times to push deliveries into the evenings. And bosses also want annualised hours—having to work longer in the winter when workload is high to “make up” for summer when there are fewer parcels. 

“These are life changing,” south east London area delivery rep Lee Wenban told Socialist Worker.

“They want a start time at 8 in the morning, which might not sound too bad to the average person. But it takes away your ability to pick your kids up from school, which costs you money for childcare or after-school clubs.

“And if your partner works evenings, and starts work when you get home, then your life changes. And that’s just one thing they want to do.”

He added, “Not only do they want to change start times, they also want to bank hours. So in the winter you could be out until 7 or 8 o’clock at night because you ‘owe’ them hours from the summer. It completely changes people’s way of life. We’re fighting for our futures.”

The assault feeds into workers’ anger after bosses forced on them a tiny 2 percent pay increase—essentially a massive real terms pay cut—after handing themselves huge bonuses. 

It’s one reason why picket lines at almost every Royal Mail workplace have had big turnouts—and why strikers are ready for more action.

“How long are we going to keep standing by and let these people have all this money?” said Rick, a striker at Abbey Wood and Thamesmead in south east London.

“It’s not just us. The trains are the same, BT. We can’t keep having this situation where people are taking millions of bonuses and we get nothing.”

“We worked all through the pandemic,” he added. “We didn’t even get PPE at the start. They made £758 million, they gave £400 million to shareholders, the CEO takes £125 million in bonus, they give us £7 extra a week. That’s what our pay rise works out as.”

Another striker in Charlton, south east London, told Socialist Worker, “They’ve got to make money, but it shouldn’t be at the expense of the workers. We shouldn’t be forced to make them richer—how about looking after us?

“Those on the board should come and do a month in our shoes. During the Christmas period, we can have 15, 16 bags each weighing 11 kilos.”

Workers are already set for three more days of national strikes on 13, 20 and 25 October. Then a rolling campaign of functional action—strikes in different sections of Royal Mail—aims at causing disruption in the run-up to Christmas.

It means that most Royal Mail workers are set for nine more days of strikes. But almost everyone is up for it—and some want to escalate even further. “If we don’t win this dispute, there’ll be no more Royal Mail,” one striker in Charlton said.

“I’ll sacrifice days of pay, weeks of pay if I have to,” said another. “We have to fight. They’ve thrown the gauntlet down and we can’t back away from it. I think we need to go all out until it’s resolved—not just one day here, one day there.”

And. with Royal Mail and rail workers set to strike together tomorrow, he added, “If you look at all the sectors that are striking, Royal Mail, rail, things like that. It’s all the workers that got us through the pandemic. Yet we’re the ones being shit on.

“Everyone is having the same problem with managers making too much money. That’s what it boils down to. In all honesty we need to strike together—everybody all at once. The country will stop and within a week it will be resolved.”

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