by Paul Haste
Postal workers continue to fightback with wildcat strikes against Royal Mail bosses’ attempts to bully staff and slash jobs, but the CWU union continues to stand back from leading the kind of coordinated national action that can win this dispute.
Royal Mail managers are on the rampage, tearing up contracts, sacking union reps and preparing the ground for massive job losses, but the CWU, instead of using the weeks before the September ballot on national industrial action to win the biggest vote possible in favour of a strike, insists on imploring bosses to get back to the negotiating table.And as the situation in delivery offices and mail centres across the country gets worse, the union has even begun demanding that CWU reps “discipline” union members who argue for unofficial action.
The CWU has also indicated that requests for local official strikes will be rejected in the run up to the national ballot, in which voting begins on September 9 and ends on 23 September.
Such moves will clearly take the pressure off Royal Mail — the earliest that a national strike can begin is October — and a lack of action in the meantime could run the risk of demoralising activists as managers continue their onslaught.
But there are signs that postal workers remain determined to fight and have the confidence to resist bosses’ attacks regardless of whether the CWU endorses their action or not.
After two year’s absence, the rank and file newspaper ‘Post Worker’ has just been revived to spread word of the strikes and solidarity action that is sweeping mail centres across Britain as the ballot papers go out.
Its first issue reports on the most recent fightbacks, such as the 65 workers in Wallasey’s main sorting office who have started an unofficial strike after managers tried to discipline union reps.
One of the strikers declared that, “Royal Mail are trying to use bully boy tactics on us and we’re just not having it,” while workers at Liverpool Mail Centre then refused to handle scab mail from Wallasey, and went on strike when managers tried to dock their pay for effectively taking illegal secondary action in solidarity.
Royal Mail drivers at East Midlands Airport also had pay deducted after they refused to cross picket lines — prompting most of the day shift to walk out on unofficial strike in response.
Managers had previously called the drivers into meetings individually and demanded that they sign letters that said they would cross pickets, but many refused.
Meanwhile, over 100 postal workers at Stoke mail centre have been on all-out indefinite strike action since August 18 after bosses threatened to close the entire office and transfer their work to Wolverhampton.
CWU branch secretary Andy Plant reported that the strike is “100 percent solid. We’ve got about 40 people on the picket line in rotating shifts from 5am to 6pm, and the support from the public has been great.”
“Around 200 postal workers in delivery offices in the city took unofficial action in our support.”
It is this kind of action that can put Royal Mail bosses on the back foot and give other post workers around the country the confidence to stand up to management’s offensive — no matter how much the CWU wants to talk about “talks” — in the lead up to the national ballot.