London Postal Workers Action

Pickets at Shepherds Bush Delivery Office – determined to defend jobs and conditions
Pickets at Shepherds Bush Delivery Office – determined to defend jobs and conditions

News Line covered a number of CWU postal worker picket lines in the early hours of last Friday morning at the start of the 24 hour strike.

At Acton sorting and distribution office in west London, CWU member Tony Farrell said: ‘Management are just walking all over us, cutting jobs and making the deliveries a lot harder.

‘Most of the managers are just jumped-up ex-postmen, who used to do all the overtime they could. They are trying to smash up Royal Mail, we are defending it,

‘No-one wants to lose a day’s pay in this climate, but we have to defend the job and the service, the whole country’s got to come out.’

Acton CWU rep Mitchell Morris said: ‘We’ve been here since 4.30am and we haven’t seen anybody go in. Around 70 work here.

‘Royal Mail are trying to break national agreements, therefore it’s got to be met by national action.

‘The government have been hitting public services for years, it’s time for all the public services to meet as one and take action together on the same day – a one day general strike.’

At Hornsey Road depot in north London, Tom Wade said: ‘It’s solid, I’ve never seen so many people on the picket line.’

CWU Rep Mark Antony said: ‘We’re showing the way forward to national action to keep the post public. It’s time to get rid of Brown, but Alan Johnson won’t be any different.

‘There should be a general strike, and there’s no point in coming out for just one day, it doesn’t affect them, we should come out for a week.’

Andrew Vadachellem said: ‘It’s a 100 per cent turnout. There is very good support, due to the cuts in the depot, and major cuts in overtime.’

CWU member Frank Smith said: ‘There should be national action, the anti-union laws brought in by Thatcher should be broken, Brown has got to go.’

At Mount Pleasant Mail Centre, where the strike was cancelled due to a legal technicality in the ballot, one worker said: ‘We should be out.’

A driver was really angry. He told News Line: ‘It’s not just the lawyers. They’ve gone even further. Management have told us to cross picket lines. I’ve been a driver 37 years and I’ve never crossed a picket line. You can’t find the union.’

Another worker said: ‘There should be national action,’ adding, ‘the fact they’ve brought the lawyers in shows we’ve got them on the run.’

At Euston Mail Centre, CWU NW1 delivery office rep Eamonn Slevin told News Line: ‘We’ve got a good turnout. We’re here to save jobs. They’ve come for 19 duties after taking 11 last year.

‘We’re out for our pensions as well. I don’t agree with Royal Mail’s policy. They doubled their profits last year and we feel we are still entitled to our pay rise, which we haven’t received this year.

‘I believe there should be a national strike. This affects the whole membership.’

A driver who pulled up said he’d been told to cross the picket lines. He added: ‘I hate doing this. We had them by the short and curlies 18 months ago and the union leaders let them off the hook.’

At Hampstead Delivery Office, CWU Deputy Rep John Taylor said: ‘There should be a national strike. The job cuts are affecting everybody. London is out because we are hardest hit.

‘Management say we are less efficient than the rest of the country. We have 57 walks and they want to reduce that to 27, which will totally cripple the delivery service.

‘The drivers from Greenford have been told that they must cross picket lines as they are outside London and not included in the ballot.

‘They have been told that if they don’t want to cross the picket line they have to leave the lorries in the street and walk home. They will then be suspended with no pay and disciplinary action will taken against them.’

He continued: ‘This dispute is about jobs. We’ve got the largest turnout today since the 2007 dispute.

‘People are worried about losing their jobs and are determined to defend them.

‘Management have started to recruit 100 workers on part time contracts on a minimum of 6-hours a week to come in to do deliveries.

‘We are expected to train them up to take our jobs off us. We’ve stopped them coming in here.’

CWU member Erdogen Zincir said: ‘There has to be a national strike, we don’t have any choice, because it’s a national problem.

‘Royal Mail don’t talk to our unions, so we have to go on strike.

‘They want to sack 16,000 staff, which is huge. Also they want privatisation. They tell us there is no pay deal for six months and they want to cut London Weighting.

‘Adam Crozier (Royal Mail boss) is destroying our company, he is getting a million pounds. If there’s no pay deal for us, why does Crozier get so much?

‘He wants to destroy our company, because he wants privatisation, and the government is backing this.’

‘This government is Labour in name only.’

At Shepherds Bush delivery office in west London, Health and Safety Rep Katie Dunning told News Line: ‘We have massive public support to defend the Royal Mail service.

‘Today’s strike is because the Royal Mail management have refused to discuss the implementation of new ways of working, but insist on slashing jobs by executive action.’

CWU member Brian Beaton said: ‘We have got to defend jobs for our future and for the next generation.

‘All Royal Mail want to do is to cut jobs, as opposed to training up the workforce.

‘They have promised us lots of equipment which has failed to materialise, and have taken walks out of the office under the guise of modernisation, we are just fed up with it.

‘Taking strike action is our only way of letting people know how bad the situation is.

Striking postal workers were out in force at the Mandela Way Southwark Delivery Office on Friday morning.

By seven o’clock, more than 30 CWU members from the SE1 and SE16 offices had turned out to support the picket lines.

Communication Workers Union (CWU) reps said that all 159 Royal Mail offices in London had voted for the 24-hour strike, but the giant Nine Elms and Mount Pleasant mail centres were working after pressure from Royal Mail bosses on the union over the legality of their ballots.

The workers expect more strike action on July 6, when they expect Nine Elms and Mount Pleasant to reballot and join the action.

At the same time as London postal workers were walking out, CWU members in Scotland were also taking action.

Appealing for public support, the CWU South-East London Postal and Counters Branch set out ‘The reasons why we are on strike’.

• ‘Abrogation of national agreements;

• ‘Full-time job cuts in offices of up to 40 per cent;

• ‘Cuts in overtime of up to 100 per cent;

• ‘These cuts will lead to a worsened service;

• ‘Royal Mail refused CWU three-month no-strike/no executive action deal.

• ‘We are pursuing national agreements over these issues.

• ‘Please support us for supporting your local postal service.’

CWU members on the picket line said: ‘The flat rate is not enough to live on in London and overtime opportunities are very limited.

‘They’re out to take everything away from us that they can.’

‘There should be a general strike,’ said one striker.

Gary Steward, SE1 CWU rep, told News Line: ‘We’re on strike for many reasons.

‘It’s a London-wide ballot and we voted to strike because of the drastic and unnecessary cuts Royal Mail want to make.

‘Royal Mail and the national union are not talking, although Royal Mail will deny that.

‘The management want drastic cuts in jobs.

‘We’re looking at 10 per cent of the London workforce under threat of redundancies and being reduced to part-time working, if the management get their way.

‘The effect of all these cutbacks is our postmen will have even longer delivery rounds, when many can’t cope with the rounds they’ve already got.

‘Management is hiding behind the current recession to cut more jobs.

‘The union want to keep everybody in full-time jobs, keep our pay and conditions that we’ve fought hard for over the years, and although we understand new technology is coming in, it shouldn’t be at the expense of the workforce.’

Gary added: ‘We should actually get the benefits of technology, for example a shorter working week.

‘Royal Mail claim that even though they’ve made substantial profits in the last year, that they have to make budget cuts in each office.

‘It seems to me they think they can increase further the profit sheet by just cutting more and more jobs.

‘This is part of the plans the government has for the privatisation of the Post Office.

‘We’ve done our own research and the overwhelming majority of the public want to keep Royal Mail and the Post Office under public ownership.

‘We’ve learned too many lessons in the past about what happens under privatisation and if you look at the survey our union conducted, when people were asked about the prospects of privatisation and a foreign company taking over Royal Mail, the public opposition rose.’

Gary said that ‘up and down the country there are thousands of jobs under threat and the reason why London is in the forefront of the struggle is because Royal Mail believe that’s where they can make the most savings.

‘In some other areas, the number of part-time staff is already 50 per cent.

‘But we’re not willing to accept that.

‘You name me anyone who can live on part-time wages in London.’

At the picket line in Peckham, SE15 CWU rep Billy Colvill said: ‘In our delivery office they want to reduce six full-time duties to 25 hours. It is just unacceptable.

‘It’s obvious Royal Mail’s intention is to completely break the union and press ahead with the government for privatisation.

‘The reality is that we’re facing a huge fight.

‘Our present leadership seems to think that there’s some kind of agreement on these issues, when I think the penny’s dropping for a lot of CWU members that this isn’t the case.

‘The postal workers are not alone.

‘RMT members, public service workers, firemen, are all facing the same kind of attacks.

‘We must call for a public sector union alliance and to unite these struggles’ call for a general strike to defend our jobs and conditions.

‘That’s the only way forwards, but our present trade union leaders are not calling for it.’