‘PEOPLE HAVE HAD ENOUGH!’ – postal workers demand action to win the struggle

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Confident CWU picket line at the West London Mail Centre in Paddington on Thursday morning
Confident CWU picket line at the West London Mail Centre in Paddington on Thursday morning

TWO weeks of postal strikes began with night shift Mail Centre workers across the UK walking out for 24 hours last Wednesday night at 7.00pm.

Dave Ward, CWU Deputy General Secretary said: ‘Over 98 per cent of mail centre workers have been on strike since last Wednesday night – this again shows the continuing level of determination by postal workers to get management to return to negotiations and stop attacking their jobs, pay, pensions, terms and conditions.’

As mail centres took their strike action, 80,000 delivery workers reported to work on Thursday with union permission to cross picket lines.

Billy Hayes, CWU General Secretary commented: ‘Postal workers have proved and continue to prove they have the resilience to go out on strike and lose pay in order to protect jobs and defend the postal service.

‘It shows how determined workers and the union are to stop Royal Mail management from destroying this public service.

‘The strike will continue for the next two weeks unless Royal Mail return to meaningful negotiations.

‘The offer to call off any further strike action is still valid on the condition Royal Mail leaders agree to listen to their employees and begin serious negotiations,’ Ward added.

However, CWU members on the picket line were much more militant than their two leaders.

Greenford Mail Centre was picketed from 7.00pm on Wednesday night to 7.00pm on Thursday evening.

On Wednesday night, CWU member Edward Darkah told News Line on the picket line that he had been a CWU member and postal worker since 2000 and has a young family.

‘We are not asking for more, we’re just fighting to defend what we’ve got,’ he said.

‘And we’re not doing it just for ourselves but for the younger ones.

‘They are the ones really losing out.

‘New workers are to be stopped from joining the existing pension scheme and the rest of us are having our pensions halved.

‘We are concerned about the public, but we have to defend our conditions and win this struggle at all costs.’

Andrew Blundy, CWU processing rep, 21 years a postal worker with three children, said: ‘What’s driving me is that these managers, Crozier on £1 million a year and Leighton on double that for a two-day week, have awarded all the managers bonuses from £2,000 upwards, amounting to £40 million, and then they tell us there’s no money to give us a decent wage.

‘And now we’ve seen their plans to smash-up our pensions.

‘So we’re not even safe from them in our old age.’

He continued: ‘There’s got to be a general strike and there will be, of that I’m sure. People have had enough.’

Many CWU members picketed through the night.

On Thursday morning, Steve Howlett, CWU safety rep, told News Line: ‘Crozier and Leighton believe they’ve got the backing of the government and if the government sits back and does nothing, then of course they are backing them vicariously.’

CWU member Manny Shamoon, 18 years a postal worker, said: ‘There’s about 20 inside that we’ve counted out of 1,300, so there’s great solidarity here.

‘Gordon Brown and all his cronies should practice what they preach.

‘They say there’s no money for us, but there’s plenty for their expense accounts.

‘We have to kick this government out.

‘The Labour Party was the trade unions, but now they have dumped the unions and the unions must dump them.

‘Unions should stop funding the Labour Party, stop funding the enemy within.

‘All unions should stop funding the Labour Party from now on.

‘We’re on strike again from 7.00pm on Monday until 7.00pm on Tuesday, we’re very strong and determined to win.’

Greenford Mail Centre CWU branch secretary, Geoff Loftus, said: ‘I’m proud of our members here.

‘The only ones who have crossed the picket line have no moral conscience whatsoever but there’s very few of them.

‘Every public sector union and every trade unionist must take action now.

‘I want a one-day general strike.

‘This Labour government has done nothing for the trade unions and the working class in the past 10 years.

‘It’s about time they started representing the people who put them there.’

There were pickets with their banner at the Mount Pleasant sorting office on Wednesday evening.

News Line spoke to Merlin Reader (in a personal capacity), the CWU local rep for ECDO. He said: ‘I think we should be looking to united strike action where possible with other workers.

‘The PCS already have a mandate for strike action but need three weeks notice.

‘I think the leaders find their political ties to the Labour Party cause difficulty but my members are demanding funding be stopped now, unless the government steps in and settles our dispute – but that means sacking Leighton and Crozier and getting rid of the regulator.’

On Thursday morning, Mount Pleasant CWU branch secretary Roger Charles told News Line: ‘Yet again the strike is very well supported.

‘Our members understand this is not just about pay.

‘Royal Mail’s plans that they call modernisation would have a detrimental effect on our members’ working conditions without offering them any benefits.

‘Leighton and Crozier are pushing their agenda of pay cuts and job cuts, slash and burn and reducing the service we are able to offer to the public.

‘If their plans are left unchecked, the universal service would be in danger.

‘The government was responsible for bringing Leighton and Crozier in, so they have some responsibility for their actions.

‘We’ve been trying since the start of this dispute to get an agreement we can all live with and move our issues forward.

‘We want a sensible agreement to meet the competition that we face.

‘We as a union may need to call on other public service unions, who are in dispute with their employers, for joint action.

‘We’ve got 2,500 members here at Mount Pleasant.

‘Our members are up for anything that will get this dispute ended with a sensible agreement. It’s the outcome that counts.’

At Paddington Mail Centre on Wednesday night, Katie Dunning, area health and safety rep, told News Line: ‘We’re striking to protect 40,000 jobs that management want to get rid of.

‘The service to the public will suffer, deliveries will be later.

‘Crown Post Offices are being closed which affects the older generation and single mothers particularly.

‘This is a war we have got to win.’

Branch secretary Ray Dunning said: ‘We want to protect our conditions and defend the service from decimation.

‘All public services are under threat.

‘We have had 100 per cent support from our members.’

He added: ‘Allan Leighton claims to listen to his employees, but 70 per cent said “No’’ to his business plan.

‘We have had an increase in union membership since the first strike.’

Retired postman Ernie Coleman joined the picket to show his support.

‘When I was a postman in Hammersmith we did three deliveries a day and before I started there were four.

‘Royal Mail used to be the best in the world.’

On Thursday morning at Paddington, CWU West London Postal branch Area Delivery Rep. Biff McGuire said: ‘The resolve is strong.

‘The members in west London have realised this is a fight we can’t afford to lose.

‘This is not just about pay. What people are mainly concerned about is the terms and conditions we’ve fought for over the years.

‘If Leighton and Crozier are allowed to push through their business plan, they will ultimately destroy this industry.

‘The government have the ability to stop this straight away – all they have to do is remove Leighton and Crozier.

‘They employed them, they are out to destroy the industry, so the government should sack them.

‘The only option left to the union is to increase the level of dispute, to up the action.’

Acting Area Processing Rep, Tony Moss, added: ‘We should do what they do in France – close the country down.

‘This government has to be brought down, it’s not a Labour Party anymore.

‘We need a workers government.’

On the picket line at Nine Elms Mail Centre in south London on Thursday morning, Graham Simmons, CWU rep for cash handling, said: ‘We’re here to try and save our jobs.

‘They want to lay off 40,000 people, close 2,000 post offices, implement new working hours and when we heard they’re trying to scrap the final salary pension, that made us more determined to win this fight.’

He added: ‘This is our third day of strike action and we will be out again next Tuesday.

‘I think we are fighting for the whole public sector.

‘If we had given in early on this and let them scrap our final salary pension, then they would have done it for the whole civil service.

‘I think they’re testing the water with us to see what they can get away with.

‘I think it’s right that we make a stand right across the public sector because we’re fed up with being pushed around.

‘It will affect every family if they start breaking up the civil service.

‘I think a National Day of Action with all unions coming out together to make a stand, to show everyone is fed up with being pushed around and taken for a ride, is what is needed.’

Strike action again was strongly supported with over 98 per cent of Mail Centre workers across the UK taking part in the action.