THIS A WAR WE HAVE TO WIN! – postal workers tell News Line

Confident CWU strikers at the Greenford Mail Centre in west London yesterday morning
Confident CWU strikers at the Greenford Mail Centre in west London yesterday morning

THE programme of rolling strike action by the Communication Workers Union – in opposition to Royal Mail’s plans to cut wages, add five years to the retirement age, tear up working conditions and sack 40,000 staff – continued yesterday.

Mail Centre and cash handling workers were called out for 24 hours by the union for the second time since the rolling strikes began.

The latest strike started at 3.00am yesterday morning and finishes at 3.00am today.

Counters staff were also out yesterday, from 2.30pm to 6.30pm, against plans to privatise and close 85 Crown Post Offices and to slash their pay packets.

Today, Royal Mail’s Network heavy goods vehicle drivers, based in Mail Centres and depots across the country, will be out on the picket line and tomorrow staff at delivery offices and separate collection hubs will strike again.

On the picket line at the West London Mail Centre in Paddington yesterday, CWU health and safety rep Katie Dunning told News Line: ‘We’re maintaining our solidarity, but we need to be out for at least a week – this is a war we have got to win.’

CWU member Derek Douvarr explained what the proposed business plan would mean if a postman were off sick.

‘We would have to cover his work – but with no extra pay,’ he said.

‘At the moment we are contracted to deliver six different leaflets to every door during the week for an extra £8.

‘The new proposals put no limit on door to door leafleting – we could get 20 or more different leaflets!’

Jules Pallet, CWU rep for W7, said that support for the strike was still strong but had only caused minor disruption to Royal Mail.

‘In my office in Hanwell three postal workers have been taken on since the strike started and they are all on 30 hours a week contracts.

‘We have now five out of 40 postal workers on 30 hours.’

Richard Kassir, CWU Harrow Area deputy-rep, told News Line on the picket line at Greenford Mail Centre in north-west London: ‘The CWU executive have had meetings and we are waiting to find out when the next strike will be.

‘They have to announce it today.

‘We need an alliance with other unions to coordinate action.

‘The only effective way forward is to show that we’re not alone in this struggle.

‘The depot in Harrow will be out on Thursday.

‘The Southall delivery office is absolutely solid, they are also out on Thursday.

‘They are fantastic, because for a long time they didn’t have a union rep, and now they’ve got one, even though he’s on holiday, their support is 100 per cent. I’m proud of them.’

Martin Baha said on the picket line: ‘We can keep going until Christmas.

‘Once we get to September, and all the Christmas catalogues start coming out, management will start sweating.

‘They can’t organise scabbing to cover 130,000 staff.

‘There is a shortage of manpower as far as drivers go.

‘Everyone is entitled to get a pay rise but they would like us to give up our conditions.

‘We have 180 drivers here at Greenford and every single one of them is on strike.

‘Along with processing staff, I’d say 97 per cent of them are out.’

Andrew Blundy said: ‘This strike is nothing to do with pay. The government and Leighton (Adam Leighton, Royal Mail boss) want to break the union.’

Mr K Patel said: ‘I agree with all-out strike action because they want to reduce the workforce and make us part-time and destroy our pensions.

‘We have to fight until we win, we can’t let it go now, there is too much at stake.’

More than 30 striking postal workers were on the picket line at the Royal Mail East and North London Mail Centre at Bromley-by-Bow early yesterday morning.

The picket line was boosted by striking CWU members from the E16 Victoria Dock Delivery Office, who were also on strike, because they work in the same building.

The strike was solid and the pickets were in high spirits.

John Ayres, the Distribution Rep of the CWU at the Mail Centre, said: ‘We have got a fantastic response to the strike in east London, particularly in the Mail Centre.

‘People have shown backbone and are determined to win the dispute.

‘East London had the biggest ballot result in the country and has the best turn-out on strike days.

‘People are more and more resolute, and more and more angry.

‘At some stage we need to reflect on the action called and reflect on what impact the strike has had on Royal Mail to see if it has forced Adam Crozier and Alan Leighton back to the negotiating table.

‘If not, then the action will have to be escalated.’

Mark Saxon, the CWU E16 Victoria Dock Unit Rep said: ‘The strike is very strong at the moment.

‘Because our delivery office is in the same building as the Mail Centre, so as to abide by the law, we have come out with the Mail Centre.

‘The rolling strikes are chaotic for Royal Mail. It is totally confusing for them. They do not know who is out from one day to the next.

‘You have to hope the government gets involved. It is the only way to get them back round the table.

‘This is not about wages. It is about all the things that are connected. This is about protecting our jobs.

‘They still do not want to talk. Leighton is more concerned about talking to British Home Stores, than talking to the people under him.

‘He can run Royal Mail into the ground and just move on to another company.’

At Mount Pleasant Mail Centre in the centre of London, CWU branch secretary Roger Charles told News Line: ‘We’ve got a good turn out. Members are solid.

‘They are feeling anger that Leighton and Crozier are making no movement towards the union with a view to ending this dispute.

‘The members want to see Royal Mail come to the table.

‘They want to see an end to the dispute, but the arrogance of management is hardening members’ stance.

‘There are sections of the membership calling for further action and there are others who would like to see the heads of Leighton and Crozier delivered on a pike.

‘The pension document has forced a lot of members to see the dispute in another light.

‘In the last few days, we’ve had a lot of people filling in their political levy exemption forms.

‘They don’t want any of their money going to the Labour Party over the government’s silence and lack of care about our situation.’

CWU member Colin Cowell added: ‘Royal Mail and the government are trying to casualise the service.

‘Because of that, they are trying to erode all the rights we have achieved over the last 150 years.

‘We as trade unionists stand in their way.

‘We have to stand firm. If we don’t, the Post Office will be decimated.

‘Leighton and Crozier will get their golden handshakes and we will have to make something of the service that’s left.

‘The public will be the victims of it all, as well as the thousands of postal workers who will lose their jobs, pensions and conditions.

‘In the ’80s, Maggie Thatcher let Royal Mail raid the pension fund.

‘Now Leighton and Crozier are talking about a deficit.

‘And the Post Office hasn’t paid what it’s supposed to have paid over the past 20 years.

‘The action has to be escalated.

‘One day a week strikes are not enough, it has to be escalated – all-out or two days a week.

‘It has to be stepped up while the support is still strong.’

On the picket line outside Nine Elms Mail Centre in south London, CWU member Lorraine Peaches said: ‘I completely support my union in the action they are taking to fight the attack on our wages and conditions.

‘And my pension is at stake – I have put in 20 years, five months and four days.

‘Royal Mail and the union should sit down and talk to sort it out.

‘But whatever happens, we can’t allow these attacks to go ahead.’

Steve Edhouse said: ‘The way they (Royal Mail management) are acting, there’s another force behind them, pushing them.’

He added: ‘There’s also very low media coverage.

‘The Mirror had the stuff about the pensions, but most of the media has been quiet.’

Two SW1 union reps said: ‘Without the government intervening this will go on and on.

‘We need to get Leighton and Crozier back to the table.

‘The fact that the government hasn’t done that makes it feel like they are okaying it.

‘They own the company after all.

‘We’ve had no proper media coverage on telly and so on – not even the local BBC news has covered the dispute properly.’