Going postal

If only I had the time to write about this, I would:

Unofficial post strike sweeps across Scotland

Hundreds of angry post workers walked out of their delivery offices in Glasgow unofficially as a protest against bullying management today.

A CWU member in Glasgow told Socialist Worker that the action was triggered when management took action against workers who had respected picket lines.

The walkout began on Monday night when drivers from the St Rollox mail centre in Springburn, Glasgow went to the post depot at Edinburgh airport. There they met pickets who were part of the official strike that was taking place across post workers based in the airport.

The Springburn drivers refused to cross the picket line. Managers first demanded their van keys, and then suggested the drivers should give up their vehicles and get a minibus back to Glasgow!

The drivers refused and returned to Springburn without unloading their vans. On return to Glasgow, the drivers were told they would have their pay stopped.

The entire drivers’ section at St Rollox – some 35 people – were enraged by this news and walked out in solidarity with their mates.

The drivers then all walked through the mail centre, and were followed by the rest of mail centre staff.

This was around midnight on Monday, some three hours before mail centre shifts were supposed to start their own official strikes.

Managers, frustrated by the strike at the mail centres, then themselves took work out to Glasgow delivery offices. They instructed workers to unload the mail – but they refused. Bosses then threatened them with suspension. In response Baird Street (G1-4) walked out, and several other offices followed.

By 12 noon on Tuesday mail centres across Scotland were out on official strike, and, unofficially, so were many Glasgow area delivery offices as well.

From the picket line in Springburn, a CWU member reported, “We’ll not be going back until this is sorted. Our reports are that across Scotland there are 22 offices out and 16 still working. We owe it to those who have shown solidarity that we get a result and stand up for basic trade union principles.”

Coming after the big unofficial strike in Oxford, and flare-ups in Preston, Liverpool and elsewhere, the Scottish strikes show the mood to fight.

To follow up, there was this report on the BBC:

Mail warning after wildcat strike

Royal Mail has warned customers in central Scotland not to post items unless they are urgent after wildcat strikes in Glasgow and Edinburgh.

It said it could not guarantee delivery over the next 24 hours due to the unofficial action at sorting offices.

Planned industrial action is also due to begin on Thursday morning.

The unofficial strike began at the Glasgow Mail Centre in Springburn on Tuesday before spreading throughout greater Glasgow.

It then spread to Edinburgh, where about 100 postal workers called an unofficial strike at the city’s main sorting office at Sighthill on Wednesday.

They claimed four workers had been suspended for refusing to handle mail transferred from the strike-affected Glasgow sorting office.

Later, Royal Mail confirmed that a “small proportion” of workers at the Aberdeen Mail Centre had also walked out.

Talks between the Communication Workers Union (CWU) and Royal Mail management on Wednesday failed to find a solution.

Royal Mail said it had only been able to make key deliveries in some areas.

Willy Marshall, branch secretary of Central Scotland CWU, said anger had “boiled over” into the unofficial dispute.

“Our workers were asked to sort scab mail, which is mail the managers should handle if our workers are on strike, and they refused so they were suspended,” he said.

“We want our men that were sent home to be brought back and start getting paid again and unless that happens the strike will continue.”

‘Unlawful action’

A spokeswoman for Royal Mail condemned the action and urged the striking workers to return to recognised negotiating procedures.

Julie Morrison, head of external relations at the Royal Mail Group, said: “Royal Mail’s utmost concern is to continue to provide a service to our customers and this kind of unlawful action plays directly into the hands of our competitors.

“We hope that the union will encourage staff back to work and allow this matter to be handled following proper agreed procedures. We remain open to dialogue in this matter.”

The wildcat strike has been called against the backdrop of a Scotland-wide dispute over pay, pensions and future industry changes that has seen the CWU call a series of official 24-hour strikes.

A further 24-hour official strike by delivery staff is expected across the UK on Thursday.

Andy Newman has a good post on the strike. He notes that

So-called “liberalisation”, opening up the publicly owned Royal Mail to competition, was introduced in January 2006, as a result of EU legislation, but the free market zealots of New Labour decided to deregulate three years earlier than competitor countries. The response to this from the CWU was revealing. Billy Hayes complained “We all know that postal liberalisation is coming, but the CWU cannot understand why a British regulator [has placed] the nation’s postal service at a competitive disadvantage” [added emphasis]

All along the CWU has accepted that liberalisation and competition could not be opposed, and therefore even if Royal Mail does stay in the public sector, it will be subject to market pressure. So it will be run as a business not as a public service.

The CWU needs to take a political stance against liberalisation, and demand that Royal mail continues to run as a public service. This is a long haul argument, but is one that the RMT has effectively mounted over renationalisation of the railways. The advantage is the not only can we start to turn the tide over the political idea there is no alternative to the market, but it would make the workforce more confident and inspired to fight. It is never a good way to fight, to first concede that your opponent is correct in principle! It is vital that the CWU seeks to politicise the dispute by winning public opinion over to the idea of defending their public service.

Amen to that, but as Andy points out

The seriousness of the current dispute is not reflected in the CWU’s current strategy, which due to its selective nature allows Royal Mail and its customer’s to work around it. What is more the current strategy is very confusing.

For example, the guidelines issued by the CWU state: “Already, as representatives will be aware from the previous two 24 hour strikes, members have been finishing their shifts while other members are on strike due to the varied shifts not all commencing at the same time. This will still be the case and it is imperative that we continue to avoid this leading to unofficial action because picket lines have put undue pressure on members who are actually due to be at work in line with the strike scheduled by the Union.”

So the CWU is actually requiring members to cross picket lines, and is condemning those activists on picket lines who are arguing that they should be respected by “putting undue pressure” on workers crossing them.

(I will refrain from commenting on the relationship between the CWU and New Labour, for I do not wish to rant. I wil say that the strikes by postal workers cannot be considered mere industrial disputes, the fact that they have been given scant media coverage, despite their scale, attests to the political dimension.)

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One Response to “Going postal”

  1. scottcarless Says:

    It might amaze you but these Strikes have been given no coverage within the Royal Mail itself, it has not passed through the Union, through the management or through internal communications.
    I’m into my final month with Royal Mail, the decision to leave was made before this all kicked off but right now its a mess and I’m glad I’m leaving I just feel sorry for all those people for who leaving is not an option and whose jobs are going to the dogs.
    As for your reporting of the confusion over the current strategy of Strikes you’d be right, no one is certain what exactly is going on, and as for the mainstream media, they don’t care what Postal workers say or do they are too busy reporting celebrity scandals and the latest from Big Brother.
    Its a mess believe me.


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