THE second series of strikes in the national postal dispute commenced yesterday morning, with Mail Centres walking out at the start of three days of action.
This was after Royal Mail did not reply to a CWU proposition for ending the dispute during negotiations on Wednesday.
Dave Ward, CWU deputy-general secretary, said on Wednesday evening: ‘Due to the involvement of Brendan Barber as an independent third party, and because for the first time Royal Mail’s Managing Director, Mark Higson, was directly involved in negotiations, we have had the most useful and productive discussions over the last three days since the dispute commenced.
‘Earlier today, we tabled a proposal as part of the process that reflected the progress made in negotiations over the last few days.
‘Had the proposal been agreed, this would have enabled a period of calm and allowed further talks through ACAS with the intention of concluding a full and final agreement.
‘At this point in time, we have not had confirmation as to whether our proposal is acceptable and therefore the strikes previously announced for the next few days will take place.
‘We respect the confidentiality of the process currently managed by Brendan Barber, general secretary of the TUC, and we are not prepared to comment on the detail of those discussions or our proposal.
‘This series of strikes and future strikes can still be avoided, and we remain available for discussions at any time including tonight.
‘We remain committed to reaching an agreed resolution.’
There were pickets out in force outside Mail Centres and delivery offices next to Mail Centres yesterday, as strike action resumed.
At the Croydon Mail Centre, CWU Area Distribution Rep Peter Longhurst said: ‘So far no one has gone in to work at all. It’s as solid as last week.
‘If I were Dave Ward, I would not even be talking to (Royal Mail boss Adam) Crozier.
‘Every Royal Mail worker deserves a public apology from him after he said on television last week that we should all shut up and get on with our work.
‘He earns – he doesn’t earn – he gets paid more in a year than any postman would earn if they started work at 16 until they retired at 65.
‘Management are destroying this service.
‘When Sunday collections were in operation what was posted Sunday would be delivered on Monday.
‘Now what is posted on Saturday won’t be delivered until Tuesday!
‘When managers went on strike in the early 80s we cleared all our walks and deliveries in a day – it worked really well!’
At Royal Mail’s big central London hub, Mount Pleasant, Lloyd Harris, CWU Assistant Branch Secretary (Mount Pleasant International Branch), said: ‘We do feel sorry for the disruption that has been caused to the public.
‘But once again we have been forced into this position.
‘After taking 18 days of strike action, the workforce could not go back to work without some form of agreement.
‘It would be foolhardy and morally wrong to trust Royal Mail after the atrocities management have done in recent times, taking people off pay, removal of benefits and constant threats and bullying.
‘Royal Mail say they had an agreement during the last two days of talks.
‘Last week the union also believed it had an agreement in place, but that was vetoed by Higson and Crozier.
‘To solve this problem Adam Crozier, the chief executive of the company, should stop playing hide and seek with the media, the public and the union.
‘He should be involved in all stages of the negotiations.
‘Royal Mail are playing out the war in front of the media.
‘As long as we stay strong, keep united, the whole of the union up and down the country, we shall win.’
Derek Francis, CWU Processing Rep, said: ‘We have to stand up for what we believe is right.
‘Royal Mail are not engaging with the union, they just want to impose changes.
‘What we are doing now is effective, the one-day rolling strikes. We can see they are having an impact.
‘Once again, we apologise for the inconvenience to the general public. But what we are trying to do is to defend the postal service.
‘The Royal Mail and the government agenda is to try and privatise the industry.
‘They are working hand in hand to destroy the CWU and privatise the business.
‘We have support from other unions and if they want to show support by coming on the picket line, they will be welcome.
‘It was clear from the Royal Mail leaked document that they are out to destroy the CWU and unions in general.’
He concluded: ‘Unity is strength, divided management can do what they like.’
Derek Puzey, CWU member on strike at the East London Mail Centre, said: ‘Royal Mail management are using bullying tactics – they are not managing, they are bullying.
‘They have no regard for other people and no regard for the future generation.
‘What’s going to happen if everybody else starts acting like that, it’s going to go up in smoke, everything that’s been built up over the years.
‘There will have to be a general strike.
‘Management are just interested in profits, not people.
‘The CWU should call an all-out strike now – we have to stand up for our rights, we can’t back down.
‘If someone is bullying you and you cower in the corner you can’t get anywhere.
‘Management are trying to get rid of the union and have their own way over everything.
‘Other unions should support us because if they break the CWU, workers will have no one to defend them.
‘All the other unions should strike as well until the whole situation is resolved.’
John O’Connor, another CWU member at East London Mail Centre, said: ‘There’s a big fight on. Royal Mail are pushing things through without consultation with the union.
‘They are changing people’s working patterns and times of duty.
‘People on a five-day week they are trying to get to work all day Saturday, without any agreement from the union and the workers.
‘Royal Mail are trying to break the union, they want to do things to the workers, punish us with no one to defend us.
‘The union has to be around to defend us. It has to stay strong and fight for every member’s right.
‘We’ve reached a situation where neither side can give way.
‘It’s coming up for another winter of discontent.
‘All the public sector should strike with us. If they can do it to us, they can do it to everyone.’
Bob Samra, another CWU member, said: ‘We are struggling for our lives, it’s one of the greatest struggles we’ve ever faced.
‘What we want is that the government and Royal Mail management sit down with the CWU and come to a fair and equal agreement to both sides.
‘We the workers made this company into a profitable company.
‘They took a 13-year pension holiday and we’ve built it up again from being a £1 million a day loss to a profitable company.
‘’They still want to privatise, but to do that they have to destroy the union, so they can sack people and create mass bullying and harassment.
‘The union is the one last thing that fights for us.’
He added: ‘No one wants to go on strike, it has always been a last resort to us.
‘It’s not an easy choice, but it has to be done.
‘We have to continue with the national strike and get a positive result.
‘Other workers have started striking as well – the Leeds binmen, the firemen, BA staff, every industry has the same slash and burn management.
‘If their members believe in defending their rights, they should all come out.’
John Ayres, CWU Area Distribution Rep, said: ‘We need the whole public sector out.’
Addressing pickets outside the East London Mail Centre, he said: ‘We are prepared to take this as far as we have to go.
‘We are not going to be rolled over into some kind of moody deal like we had in 2007.
‘We will remain strong, we are going to win this dispute.
‘We just have to hold our nerve.
‘The unions are looking to us. The whole public sector is going to come under attack.’
He added: ‘Mandelson gave the green light to attack the CWU.
‘How can you sit down and negotiate on the same day they are rolling out the scab labour force?
‘Part of any negotiated agreement must be that scab forces are stood down.
‘We are coming to a critical phase, this is our time, we are coming up to Christmas.
‘We need to escalate the dispute with a rolling programme of action.
‘The union needs to show we are serious about this and we will do everything to get the postal workers what we want.
‘We are telling the members of the PEC (CWU Postal Executive Committee): you are not going to sell us out.’
Pickets at the South London Mail Centre and the SW1 and SW3 Delivery Offices at Nine Elms were in determined mood.
Steve Byrne, CWU Early Rep at the mail centre, told News Line: ‘Everyone needs to come out together like they do in France, the whole country comes out together.
‘We don’t want another winter of discontent where we have our skirmish and go back, and then the firemen have their skirmish and go back, and then the workers at BA. Everyone should come out together.
‘We’ve got the National Union of Teachers with us today, they’ve come down.
‘Last week we had support from RMT members and Unison, but everyone needs to strike together. We need solidarity.
‘Royal Mail say the customers aren’t happy, but we’re getting public support.
‘You can see all the motorists tooting their horns.’
He added: ‘We had a postal executive meeting yesterday afternoon and they said they’re going to recommence the talks today, because yesterday there wasn’t enough time to make a decision on whether to suspend the action or not. But Royal Mail say we walked away.
‘Yesterday was the first time we’ve seen Higson on the television, but Mandelson needs to get involved, he’s the Business Secretary.’
Sara Tomlinson, Lambeth NUT teachers’ union joint secretary, said: ‘I think the CWU fight is a fight on behalf of all public sector workers.
‘What they’re facing in terms of attacks on full-time workers, bullying in the workplace, threats to their pensions, are all fights we think we’ll have to face in teaching – and if they win it will make it easier for all of us in the public sector to win the battles ahead.
‘I’m completely opposed to the privatisation of the Post Office and education.’
John Mulvihill, South London CWU Deputy Distribution Rep, told News Line: ‘We want to be treated fairly.
‘We want Royal Mail to adhere to these agreements they signed two years ago.
‘People want to stop being bullied, but the Royal Mail is forcing through change.
‘We don’t know what’s been happening in the talks. That’s been kept very quiet, apart from what everybody knows from what the union and Royal Mail have put out on their own websites.’
He added: ‘We want to be able to agree the action that has been taken.
‘We know the business has to move forward, but we need it to move forward for the right reasons, not just what they want.
‘We’re being told here that if our members aren’t prepared to work outside of the agreements signed off last year on pay and modernisation, that they will be taken off pay immediately – and that’s been happening for several months here.’
Dave, a CWU member at the SW1 Delivery Office, said: ‘I’d like to know why Gordon Brown and Mandelson didn’t intervene when it was a local issue in London, but now they’re starting to intervene when it’s a national issue.
‘These private companies want the cream of the Royal Mail – they want the big cities like Manchester and Birmingham, the business parts of the cities, the profitable parts.
‘Now we’re getting bullying and harassment from the governors big time.
‘All this is about breaking up Royal Mail and making money.
‘They don’t want a service any more. Royal Mail is not the service it was.’
There was a lively picket of the Greenford Mail Centre in west London yesterday, with a fire, a barbecue, a tent and the branch banner from 4.00am.
Striking CWU members were delighted when officers from the local National Union of Teachers branch visited them to give support, physical and financial.
CWU member Tim Ryan spoke to News Line about the strike.
He said: ‘I’m up for it. We say to our CWU leaders: we need to get this sorted now.
‘Don’t take us up to the top of the hill and then lead us back down again. See it through this time. Don’t leave things until January and February, we’ve got to sort it out now.
‘We will only accept an agreement covering job security, terms and conditions, and our pension. It’s got to be sorted.’
NUT members put up their banner next to the local CWU branch banner and Ealing NUT President Tom Davies, a teacher at Cardinal Wiseman High School, said: ‘This is a dispute which affects all trade unionists.
‘It’s not just against management, it’s against the government. The whole public sector is being attacked.
‘That’s why we must all stick together.
‘I would want united action across the whole public sector.
‘For the postal union membership, and leadership, to be depicted as extremists is totally wrong because what is affecting them is affecting us as well.
‘The pensions issue, bullying and intimidation, constant attacks on our working conditions – these are common to all public sector workers.’
Tom’s colleague, Nick Grant, Ealing NUT branch secretary, said: ‘We have come here to show basic solidarity.
‘We are making an initial donation from branch funds of £250 and we will be holding collections after half-term.
‘An active alliance of all public sector workers is essential today to make sure we aren’t made to pay for the bosses’ crisis.’
Geoff Loftus, Greenford Mail Centre CWU Area Processing Rep, said: ‘We’re over the moon the teachers have come down again.
‘But not only them, the firefighters, British Airways workers, ambulancemen, it’s absolutely fantastic.
‘And even more important, the public is showing how much it supports us.’
Loftus added: ‘The reason we are not back to work is that Dave Ward, our deputy-general secretary, and the postal executive, know that what’s necessary is a deal that is a long-lasting deal that the Royal Mail bosses can be made to abide by.
‘The 2007 pay and modernisation deal, they never abided by. This deal has got to stick and Crozier, Mandelson and Higson have got to go.’
At the Jubilee Mail Centre in Twickenham, CWU member Billy Sanger told News Line: ‘It would be nice to have the whole TUC behind us.
‘These top Royal Mail executives were brought in by the government to privatise Royal Mail and walk away with their pockets stuffed with paper with the Queen’s face on it.
‘When the union put a stop to that a couple of months ago, it got up their backs so much that they said let the company be destroyed.
‘These private companies don’t want to buy Royal Mail, they just want to take the profitable bits.
‘What Crozier is out to do is to smash up the union so that he can get rid of Royal Mail altogether.’
At the Heathrow Worldwide Mail Distribution Centre in Langley, CWU Deputy Area Rep Paul Roper told News Line: ‘The dispute is ramping up.
‘If management have condemned us again for this action, it means the talks can’t have gone that well.
‘Royal Mail want us to cancel the strikes until after Christmas, they’re hoping we lose public support.
‘We’ve got to win it now, before Christmas, we can’t lose this one.
‘The leaked document – I’ve assume you’ve seen the leaked document of management’s plans – is about derecognising the union, as far as we’re concerned.
‘They’re saying they’re just going to implement changes whether it’s by national agreement or not.’
He stressed: ‘We know all about modernisation here at Langley.
‘This strike is not about modernisation.
‘They’re ignoring the union at all levels, at local branch level, area level, and national level.
‘We’re seeing aggressive sickness management, and people getting disciplined for really menial things.
‘This has been going on for four, five or six months. It affects everyone.’