CWU members are standing fast at Royal Mail delivery offices across London, in their fight to defend jobs and basic trade union rights.
Strike action again took place at local delivery offices across the capital yesterday, ahead of the ballot of all CWU members at Royal Mail for a national strike.
But there were reports that CWU leaders had gone into three days of talks with Royal Mail.
On the picket line at the Southwark Delivery Office, CWU SE1 rep Gary Steward told News Line: ‘Management stopped streaming the work some time ago, to cut costs, and now this week at SE1 they’ve put the revision in to cut jobs.
‘Put yourselves in the position of a couple of my staff: they’ve come in on Monday morning and been told they’ve got no jobs.
‘The first thing they’ve done is approach the manager and tried to get assurances off him, which he would not give. So they are in limbo.’
He added: ‘Under these plans, delivery staff will get double the amount of work in the same amount of time!
‘The Royal Mail talks about technology and modernisation, but that’s not happening at the moment – but they’re still going ahead with cuts.
‘Their answer is: we are not going back, we are only going forward, even if they admit they’re in the wrong. They’re just marching on relentlessly.’
Danny Barry, a CWU member at the Southwark office, said: ‘We should go all out, get the whole trade union movement out.’
There were more pickets at Peckham Delivery Office, where CWU SE15 rep Billy Colvill said: ‘The strikes are having a huge effect now, millions of items backed up in the system.
‘All offices in London are facing executive action on the 28th. Our jobs are under threat.
‘It’s criminal that the Unite union has its members – managers – not only crossing picket lines, but persecuting our members.
‘This is basic trade union principles.
‘The Unite leaders Woodley and Simpson should either instruct their members not to cross the picket line or face expulsion.
‘We’ve brought this to the attention of the Unite leadership, but they’ve done nothing.
‘My dad was in the print and I can remember when the electricians union organised to break the printers strike.
‘Is that what the Unite union leadership are doing with their own members?
‘When we say that we need support from other unions, it comes down to leaders of other unions who are prepared to stand by basic trade union principles.
‘Woodley and Simpson are not doing that.’
At the Brockley office, CWU SE4 rep George Dickson said: ‘We’re still very strong supporting the strikes in London, and when the rest of the country joins in we’ll be stronger.
‘I think now it’s just an attempt to break the union and to privatise the Royal Mail if Labour get in after the next election, because it has been put on the back-burner.
‘I think the private companies want to come into Royal Mail when it has been casualised and de-unionised.
‘I think Mandelson is a Tory, that’s my belief, and that he’s the one running the Labour Party.
‘I think this government are no different from the Tories, they both want privatisation, which will destroy the good service we give.
‘I think now the managers are getting harder on us.’
In north-west London, Geoff, the CWU rep at the Cricklewood Delivery Office, said: ‘Our members are still solid in support of the strike.
‘This is even though our members are coming under aggressive management bullying and harassment.
‘People are being pulled in and spoken to in a very aggressive manner to try and get them to work beyond their contracted hours for no pay.
‘Also, they are told that if they do not complete their duties and bring mail back, they will lose a day’s pay.
‘But the Cricklewood membership is very strong, despite these provocations.
‘We are waiting for the national strike. It should have happened months ago.
‘We took Billy Hayes up at the meeting on Thursday.
‘Management want it back to the 1900s, when you used to stand outside and ask for work.
‘Royal Mail are saying we have to stick to our agreements, yet they are tearing agreements up.
‘We don’t feel we are part of Royal Mail’s family any more.
‘ “Our people’’, they call us. Would you treat your family like this?’
At Hampstead Delivery Office, Chris, a CWU member, said: ‘Gordon Brown speaks with more enthusiasm about Sainsbury’s plastic bags than he does about our dispute in Royal Mail.
‘He’s never got involved positively.
‘Brown left it to his hatchet man Mandelson.
‘I believe part of the problem is some of our head union officials seem to be involved with management more than we like.
‘I want to see the dispute resolved and all our colleagues working under the right conditions and with protected jobs.
‘I want to see an end to the bullying, harassment and belittling of some of our colleagues in all offices.
‘Management are seeking to provoke a reaction for wildcat strikes.
‘But they are clutching at straws. We remain strong and resilient.’
John Cotier, Hampstead CWU Unit Rep, told News Line: ‘I heard the union and Royal Mail are in three days of talks.’
He added: ‘It appears our meetings must have pricked some consciences at union headquarters, because at long last the CWU’s managed to squeeze the impact our dispute is having in all offices across the country onto the TV news.
‘Management’s line now is: you’re not working fast enough, so they are taking us off of pay.
‘If you tell them you can’t complete your duty, they give you what they call “one strike’’. Once you have reached three “strikes’’, they take you off pay, meaning you might as well go home.
‘You can’t come back unless you agree to work faster.’
He continued: ‘There is no consistency. Kilburn went out on unofficial strike because the health and safety rep considered it unsafe to work.
‘He advised management they would not be starting off on their walks until they had made the office safe.
‘They issued the health and safety rep with one of these “strikes’’ for wasting time.
‘That is Royal Mail’s attitude towards health and safety and duty of care to their staff.
‘Management provoked the unofficial action.’
Cotier went on to say: ‘Royal Mail will probably wait for the result of the ballot for national strike action, which we know will be a 100 per cent “yes’’ vote.
‘All over the country our members are sick and tired of Royal Mail’s actions, disguised under the pay and modernisation agreement of 2007.
‘We are also sending out a consultative ballot to gain our members’ views on withdrawing our support for the Labour Party.
‘We know Royal Mail’s actions are supported by the Labour government because Postcomm has been instructed not to impose any fines on Royal Mail for failing the universal service obligation.
‘Had the Labour government not done that, Royal Mail would have had to sit round the table and talk and be in a financial crisis.
‘We were promised at the meeting on September 4 by Billy Hayes that the ballot papers would be going out on Tuesday September 8.
‘Now Darling has announced spending cuts. This will have repercussions throughout the trade union movement.
‘ “Support the banks and ditch services’’ – Labour’s new policy – and I’ve been a Labour supporter for 47 years. Now I’m an ex-Labour supporter.
‘It looks like we will get a public sector strike – quite rightly.’
Outside the Willesden Delivery Office, CWU rep Paul Blair told News Line: ‘National action is long overdue and we are all up for it.
‘Strike action has to be taken because management want to change our agreements without consultation – worst of all is the bullying.
‘I think there will be a massive “yes’’ vote and we will be out until we get what we want.’
At the Notting Hill Delivery Office picket line CWU member Sean Cupples said: ‘We are being asked to do impossible things with unworkable conditions.
‘Management are harassing members when they think they can get away with it.
‘At the end of the day we have to make a stand.
‘We should have had national strike action from day one.’
At the Hanwell Delivery Office, West London CWU Postal Branch Treasurer Julian Pallett told News Line on the picket line: ‘I went up to lobby the Unite head office last Thursday, demanding they stop their members doing work beyond their grades.
‘Any member of a union should support fellow colleagues and this isn’t happening from Unite.’
He continued: ‘I’m looking forward to the ballot and a resounding “yes’’ vote.
‘Postal workers are fully aware of the struggle we’re engaged in.
‘Competition hasn’t worked. Postcomm’s failed.
‘We want national action.’
Gordon Morford, drivers rep at the South London Mail Centre at Nine Elms, said on the picket line: ‘This strike is starting to hit home.
‘You can’t move for the amount of mail in the centre now.
‘Small businesses are not getting their cheques, people are not receiving their mail.
‘I think we will force Royal Mail to negotiate properly.
‘They are planning to get rid of 40 jobs in the SW1 delivery office and also others in Tooting and other areas.
‘I can’t work out what Royal Mail is up to. It’s certainly not quality of service that they’re after.
‘I like to see the best in things, but there must be an ulterior motive.
‘The delivery offices are getting it really hard.
‘Where there’s 10 people, they are reducing it to seven or eight.
‘Even though people have lost 10 days’ pay through strikes, the feeling is still very strong.’
He added: ‘I’m expecting a resounding “yes’’ in the national ballot.’
Steve Byrne, CWU Early Rep at the Mail Centre, said: ‘The support is still very strong, very few people are going in, just the same few scabs.
‘With the national ballot pending, the support is getting stronger.
‘The offices are getting picked on.
‘Royal Mail are not negotiating, just driving through their plans.
‘They are effectively de-recognising the union.
‘It’s the sub-offices they are attacking at the moment.
‘We are expecting a huge “yes’’ vote for a national strike.’
In north London, pickets were out in force with a barbeque in Stoke Newington.
Joe Donnellan, the CWU rep for the N16 office, told News Line: ‘We received letters yesterday giving us 28 days’ notice of executive action that would put us back to a five-day week.
‘The four-day week at this office came from the 2007 agreement to improve working conditions in return for some cuts at the time.
‘The national ballot is round the corner now, it was a long time coming.
‘Royal Mail would have hoped by now that London and other offices would have crumbled, but we are as strong now as we were on the first day.
‘I am at the stage where I believe we should be thinking of a vote of no confidence in Billy Hayes.
‘He has allowed things to go on for too long, issues of pay, terms and conditions and pensions in particular.
‘I am 100 per cent positive we will get a massive “yes’’ vote after the ballot.’
He added: ‘Any manager that is in a union shouldn’t be crossing picket lines and doing postal workers’ work.
‘Anyone who crosses a picket line in any union should be thrown out of the union.
‘I support the action that postal workers are taking at Unite headquarters.
‘We will win this dispute, guaranteed!’
Meanwhile, Postal Workers at Royal Mail’s National Distribution Centre have made an official complaint to the Police and the HSE regarding serious safety breaches & management bully-boy tactics during postal strike
The Communication Workers Union (CWU) in Northamptonshire has again contacted the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) over serious breaches in health & safety standards at Royal Mail’s National Distribution Centre (NDC) in Crick, Northamptonshire.
Mick Fitzmaurice, CWU Branch Secretary for Northamptonshire says, ‘There have been five very serious incidents recently whereby lorry drivers have driven off from loading bays on red lights.
‘On at least one occasion a postal worker was still unloading from the rear of the vehicle which could have been extremely serious and potentially fatal.
‘Other safety issues have been registered with the HSE since at least January 8 in respect of the lack of demarcation lines and barriers between pedestrians, workers and forklift trucks.
‘The CWU has requested copies of all drivers’ training records, as it is evident that agency drivers and managers are not trained to the same high standard as Royal Mail Drivers. Vehicle keys should be hung on loading bay doors to prevent lorries being driven off on red lights but most of the drivers being employed during the postal dispute have claimed that they have received no training whatsoever.
‘Complaints have also been registered about managers and agency staff working excessively long driving hours and not taking the legal breaks between attendances as Royal Mail breaches safety standards and uses bully-boy tactics to try to break striking drivers.
‘Last night the CWU called the Police to the picket line for the 2nd time at NDC as local Managers continued to intimidate and harass drivers despite previous Police and CWU safety advice.
‘Unskilled agency and manager drivers have been reported for habitually using mobile telephones whilst driving lorries, excessive speeding and illegally smoking in vehicles.
‘The CWU wrote to the HSE today because eight managers employed to watch striking workers all day failed to record any of the safety issues or serious incidents. It is only a matter of time before a postal worker is seriously injured or becomes a fatality due to managerial safety negligence but equally serious is the prospect of these untrained drivers causing a serious motorway accident involving members of the public.
‘CWU Members have been advised to be extra vigilant when drivers are on strike and to remove themselves from any work area where it is felt that there safety is being compromised as a result of this ongoing safety negligence. It is as if Royal Mail has adopted a policy of completely abrogating its legal duty to the health, safety and well-being of its employees as the CWU has also challenged the legitimacy of postal workers using private cars on deliveries and whether Royal Mail carries out the necessary rigid checks to ensure that private cars are legally roadworthy and insured to be used for this purpose.
‘An independent investigation into bullying and harassment at NDC was already due before the strike but CWU members have made it clear that they will not cower to bullying and intimidation tactics and Managers behaving like nothing more than industrial thugs’.