by Mark Harrison
Manchester students are running a solidarity campaign to support the city’s postal workers. The campaign involves members of The Commune, Anarchist Federation, Communist Students, the SWP, AWL and individual leftist students.
Members of the ‘Manchester Students Support the Postal Strike’ group stood alongside workers on pickets this week and shall be returning for the next round of strikes. For many this has been their first time on a picket line and it has been a good opportunity to learn from the Royal Mail workers about the bullying practices of their management. Despite the right wing press demonising the CWU a ComRes survey for the BBC found that 50% of people sympathise most with the postal workers and only 25 per cent with the management. This was demonstrated by those passing by on their way to work, and even Tony Lloyd, the Labour MP for Manchester Central, came down to show his support (ironically he has been a supporter of plans for postal service privatisation).
For me personally it has been refreshing to see collaboration between different left groups on campus, and as one comrade put it, “It is a miracle that we have even managed to hand out the same flyer”. I find it frustrating that comrades are divided from working together, (sometimes bitterly) due to which Trot sect they may have joined at freshers’ fair.
There has been much publicity surrounding the 30,000 strike breakers brought in to undermine the strike, and in an attempt to avoid a repeat of the Liverpool postal strike in 2007 where students were used to undermine the strike, we have been pushing the ‘Students Won’t Be Scabs!’ slogan.
The culmination of the group’s work so far was a ‘day of action’ on October 27th. Four hours were spent on a stall and £50 raised for the strike fund as we tried to spread support for the strike and publicise our public solidarity meeting in the evening which 40 people attended.
Bruce Davenport of the CWU and a RM worker for 30 years was the first to speak. He said that despite paying the contribution to his pension every week he has seen its value decrease, an example of workers being made to ‘work longer, for less’. He helped to dispel the message found in the mainstream media that the dispute is simply due to modernising management and a dinosaur of a union.
Furthermore he commented that despite the strike being strong one scab had been bragging on Facebook that she has been able to afford a new tattoo due to crossing a picket line. He also spoke about how CWU members are fed up with paying money to the Labour Party for the shit they get in return: recently 96% of CWU members in London voted to withdraw funding for Labour in a consultative ballot, although it is yet to be seen what result a national ballot would produce.
Finally, he mentioned the stupidity of management’s decision to set up a strikebreaking operation in a Yorkshire ex-mining town. A former RM worker made a contribution from the floor and told us how the public’s image of the cheery postie couldn’t be further from the truth: she has never worked in such a hostile workplace in all her life and the bullying was so bad that she had to escort a worker across the shop floor to his counsellor as he was so afraid of the management.
Next to speak was Peter Grant of ASLEF, the train drivers’ union. He explained how railway workers have fought against privatisation which has resulted in ASLEF and the RMT becoming the strongest trade unions in the country. He informed the group that the train drivers are behind the postal workers and that his union may be preparing to strike as well due to the unfair sacking of a driver in Blackpool. Needless to say we made clear we would fully support him and his comrades in such a case. He ended his speech by replying to a contribution from a member of the Campaign for a New Workers Party (a Socialist Party-led initiative) that ‘we do not want another labour party’.
The final speaker was Geoff Brown, secretary of the Manchester Trades Council and member of the SWP. In his speech he bemoaned that sympathy is ‘like honey on your elbow’ and this sympathy must be turned into solidarity, something which has been absent from Britain since the miners’ strike.
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Photo credit: Chris Strafford