‘THIS has been the best-supported strike I’ve ever seen,’ CWU General Secretary Billy Hayes told striking postal workers on the picket line at Mandela Way in south-east London yesterday morning.
He added: ‘It’s been a fantastic day for the union and I think we’re going to win this.’
Hayes continued: ‘There will be a rally and lobby on July 19 and we’re going to have some big speakers there.’
He said the new Brown government was saying it was ‘up for change’ and responded ‘we’re up for change’, but the Royal Mail bosses are getting £1.5 million whilst telling postal workers they are ‘25 per cent overpaid and 40 per cent underworked.
‘The CWU is a strong union, a serious union and what you’ve done today will help us get an agreement.’
Hayes and Dave Ward CWU deputy general secretary, were visiting their members on picket lines as Royal Mail and Counter staff staged a national 24-hour stoppage as part of a developing struggle over their pay, their jobs, working conditions and the future of the post office.
Dave Ward, CWU deputy general secretary, told News Line: ‘We’re receiving reports from right across the country that it’s the best-supported strike we’ve ever had, in all regions.’
Ward said there was an overwhelming ‘yes’ vote from CWU members for action because ‘postal workers are fed up with the way they are being treated by Royal Mail.’
Ward went on: ‘The government own the Post Office, they can’t ignore what’s going on in this dispute, they are the shareholder.’
When asked how the union would respond to attempts to victimise members or other attacks on the union Ward said ‘it is too early for us to say that other public sector workers should come to our aid as such.’
He added: ‘We are willing to talk to other public sector unions, and there will be a meeting between ourselves and Mark Serwotka (PCS civil service union leader) so we both understand each other’s disputes and we can work together to bring an acceptable solution.’
Leaders of Southwark NUT teachers’ union came to show their support for the striking postal workers and Lambeth NUT brought their banner to the picket line.
Over 60 striking postal workers were outside Mandela Way sorting office in south-east London from early morning, rain or shine.
One of the strikers, Michael Healy, said: ‘Most people are here for the future.
‘Leighton and Crozier have got every intention of cutting the service so badly – they’re still talking about 40,000 job cuts, which will completely decimate the service.
‘Two or three years ago their original target was 30,000 redundancies, and now they want 40,000 more.
‘If they could get the other unions to do it, then I think there should be coordinated action.’
Mole Meade, CWU South East London Post and Counters Branch, told News Line outside Mandela Way: ‘The counters are going to be out between 6.00 this morning and 12.00 midday and the same again on Monday.
‘The feeling is getting high.
‘What management offered them is a £5,000 a year pay cut over the next three years.
‘It’s like with the Royal Mail situation: the vast majority of government work has been removed from the system and given to the competition.
‘Their position is “regulation, regulation, regulation’’ – we’ve got a government in power that’s got an ethos which is you don’t need to own anything, you’ve just got to “regulate’’ it.
‘Of course, they want the whole public sector run by the private sector.
‘We are also calling for a boycott of WH Smith to defend the Crown Post Office network, as they are being given 75 Crown Offices so that the Post Office can negate its responsibilities.’
Steve Beadle, the local CWU SE1 rep and substitute area rep for South East London, told News Line: ‘I’m very pleased to see so many people supporting the picket today.
‘We need solidarity all round in these types of disputes.’
Pickets were out in force at East London Mail Centre in Bromley-by-Bow, where hundreds of postal workers are employed.
No postal workers went into work at the Mail Centre and only managers were on the site.
Angela Mulcahy, the Area Processing Rep. of the CWU’s East London Postal Branch said: ‘We are out 100 per cent up and down the country.
‘We have got UNISON and the PCS alongside us, because they face the same problems.
‘If the government does not listen, there will be more days of action until they do listen.’
In Hackney, Joe Donnellan, CWU Rep for N16, said: ‘We are out here to defend our terms and conditions.
‘Privatisation has undercut all our terms and conditions.
‘The rumours are that anything up to 40,000 workers could get the sack and that is linked to the mechanisation of the machinery.’
Peter Grom, CWU Branch Secretary for the East London Postal region, said: ‘The whole area is completely solid!
‘This is the start of the campaign to bring Royal Mail back to negotiations.
‘We will have to stick at it until we win!’
Claudette Hutchinson, CWU member at Whitechapel, said: ‘We are out on strike for a whole number of reasons.
‘Firstly they are trying to close down a number of post offices and bring in “team work’’ that means there are six people in each section.
‘If two are off sick then we will have to carry the work and that puts extra pressure on us!’