‘WE’RE LOOKING FORWARD TO THE NATIONAL STRIKE’ – say CWU pickets

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CWU pickets at Peckham Delivery Office early on Saturday morning
CWU pickets at Peckham Delivery Office early on Saturday morning

Postmen and women were out in force on picket lines at 5.30am on Saturday all over London discussing the progress of their dispute against Royal Mail and the Labour government.

At Acton in west London, CWU rep Mitch Mitchell said: ‘This is the ninth day we’ve been out since the middle of June.

‘We’re looking forward to national action. The ballot begins on September 9th until the 23rd.

‘We are hoping for and expecting an overwhelming “yes’’ vote. We have to safeguard our future.

‘Royal Mail wants to turn the business into a part-time, casual operation. This would destroy our conditions and the service as well.

‘The whole public sector is under attack and we need to stand together as one.

‘In view of the fact that Labour is supposed to be for the working class, it’s very ironic that it’s a Labour government that is trying to keep the working class down.

‘There are people on the picket line here today who have been saying we should have had a national strike earlier.

‘But we did what we did and we are where we are.

‘I am confident that we are strong.

‘If this doesn’t work it means that Royal Mail will de-recognise the union and we could end up working like slaves.’

Other pickets confirmed what Mitch said.

Len Sydney said: ‘We need national action, we don’t want to fight on our own.

‘They move our mail outside London and then as soon as we go back, they move it back in again.

‘This is destroying the effectiveness of our strike.

‘The backlog builds up for two days then it clears.’

Phil King added: ‘It is also the wrong time of year because there is less mail because it is summer and everyone is on holiday.

‘It should have gone national straight away and not pockets of us out on our own. We should have a national strike straight away.’

At Peckham Delivery Office in south-east London, CWU SE15 rep Billy Colvill told News Line: ‘We were told in my office they’re going to bring in executive action, cut all our SA (overtime) and reduce 40-hour duties down to 25.

‘This is clearly unacceptable. They’re literally trying to force us out on unofficial action and literally force our members out of our jobs.

‘In this situation it’s important that we proceed with the national ballot, which is a long time overdue, and we still haven’t had a reasonable explanation from our leadership why the conference decision on the national ballot wasn’t activated.

‘And I have to say personally how bitterly disappointed I am by the Unite union, whose members, our managers, are crossing the picket line, and I think that our union should go to the TUC and say that Unite should be expelled from the TUC because their members are crossing picket lines.’

At the Southwark Delivery Office, CWU SE1 rep Gary Steward said: ‘They gave out letters last week and apparently we’re going on five-day weeks from September 28.

‘They sent out letters when the union reps weren’t there. Our office is split into sectors, so they’ll bring it in sector by sector.

‘They’ll tell postmen: you’re deliveries have gone, so you’re surplus to requirements. It could be two senior men, who’ve now not got any work.

‘If they try to send one of our senior staff all the way to Abbey Wood, for example, all hell will break loose.

‘Royal Mail management deny it, but these tactics are to intimidate staff. It feels like the government and the Tories are ganging up on the working class.’

Steve Carter, assistant CWU rep, Wimbledon delivery office, told News Line on the picket line: ‘This week has been the first week of the changes and enforced job cuts.

‘From Monday, the office was flooded with managers from outside areas under the directive to bully and harass staff who are on impossible duties.

‘People surplus to requirements are being moved from the office or being taken off pay if they refuse to drive, when they have always been on walking duties.

‘I think that there will be national action because the changes are so horrific. We have to stick together and stand firm.’

At the Kilburn delivery office, CWU rep Colin Friel said: ‘The whole thing here is bursting at the seams, management are being really full on.

‘They are moving our members from one office to another, it’s extreme bullying, they are trying to provoke a walkout.’

CWU member Jim King said: ‘I want to emphasise this strike is not about pay but about conditions, and that management are not interested in quality of service.’

At Cricklewood delivery office, Area Health and Safety Rep Tim Shearer told News Line that the Greenford Mail Centre and Harrow offices will be joining London on strike action on Thursday.

‘The whole issue is of changing working practices,’ he said.

‘Management saying they have to make 10 per cent extra savings by cutting job numbers is completely counter-productive, because the quality of service is compromised.’

Brockley postmen out in force on picket lines at 5.30am discussed the progress of the dispute (and lack of a BBQ this time).

George Dickson South East Rep said:‘I think waiting for a National Ballot for three weeks will be too much of a delay.

‘Billy Hayes came down here. He had nothing to say. He is after getting into the Labour Party. ‘

‘Royal Mail have already cut hours or are planning to cut hours. If we delay a month it will be harder, because the cuts will already be implemented.’

Another striker said: ‘At Wimbledon, management are telling postal workers on the spot, what “walk” they are going to do as they come in. It can change every day. It takes a fair bit to learn a new walk, so the service to the customer deteriorates.

‘No doubt management will blame us for that!

‘Part of the strike is to defend the service to customers. There is certainly no personal touch! People are not getting the service.

‘These local managers are getting their orders from the top. They get a conference call everyday.

‘I’ve been on the job for 24 years, and I have never seen anything like this, with the bullying and harrassment.’

John Barber said: ‘Postmen realise if we don’t win, the job won’t be worth doing. It will be a 32-hour week, with £170 to show for it!

‘They are trying to take 55 hours out of PHG. That’s a whole walk and half of someone else’s walk. Someone is going to lose a job.

‘So we can’t afford to lose the strike.

‘The kind of action we have been taking up to now is not working when we come in.

‘We need an all-out strike.

George Dickson interjected: ‘When Hayes came to Rivali Hall, he wouldn’t answer anything straight.

‘A lot of people were not very happy with Billy Hayes. We get a feeling he wants to go to talks. He is grooming himself for a political position like Alan Johnson, who could be top man.

‘Mandelson has said that at the next election privatisation will be looked at again. This government are so brazen about it; we are getting back to Victorian Times.

Ray added: ‘I used to be a Labour man but now. . .!’

Speaking in favour of the ballot for national action, he continued: ‘In September it will be building up to Christmas. I don’t think Royal Mail or Mandelson expected us to last this long.

‘Royal Mail started it in the summer, same as the miners. They were hoping to break us before now.

‘We are looking for the other unions to back us.

Bill Tolman said: ‘The Post Office is about the only industry left. We want the RMT, PCS and everyone to come out with us. We need a General Strike. I can’t understand why the unions can’t have a national ballot right across the board.’

George Dickson concluded: ‘We should all come together for a national strike against the government.’

‘Railwaymen, firefighters, teachers, the lot. Most people just want to work.

‘The nationalised industries were better. When you privatise, you lose the service and it’s more expensive.’