Bigotry of Royal Mail boss; spreading wildcats

[Thursday]

This story is a few days old now, but this is a new development:

Royal Mail boss Adam “Cobblers” Crozier is known for his mocking, loutish way of speaking, but by slurring post workers for their supposed “Spanish practices”, he has upset more people than usual.

This morning Radio Barcelona rang up the postal workers’ CWU union London region office and asked why Royal Mail management had chosen to insult the Spanish people in a way that implied they are lazy and dishonest.

The union replied that CWU members do not tolerate the use of such blatantly discriminatory language, but that, unfortunately, they were not at all surprised to hear it from their management.

Yes, it’s what we’d expect from Crozier’s sort.

Thankfully, our posties aren’t taking it any more. Not from management, the government, or those within the union who are seeking to limit the scope of the dispute:

The stakes in the dispute between Royal Mail and the CWU union grew today as unofficial strike action in Royal Mail continued to spread. Offices in south east London joined striking colleagues in east and south west London, and there is now a real possibility that all offices and mail centres in London will join the action within the next 24 hours.

Postal workers in Merseyside are also maintaining their unofficial action, with at least one delivery office in the Wirral today joining those who started their strike yesterday.

Royal Mail’s imposition of new start times for delivery workers has been one of the triggers for the current unofficial action. A climate of intimidation generated by bullying managers has served only to inflame the situation.

In some offices petty-minded managers have told workers that they must put up their hand if they want to go to the toilet. In others workers have been told that they cannot have a drink while they are sorting their mail.

In south east London offices in Mandela Way (SE1), Abbey Wood (SE2), Peckham (SE15) and Rotherhithe (SE16) all joined the strike.

It is also clear that Royal Mail is attempting to use more serious tactics to provoke workers.

At the Nine Elms mail centre in south west London, workers were told yesterday that there would be no overtime to clear the backlog of work. Instead their mail from that office is to be sorted to a private firm.

In north London Royal Mail have told the union that it intends to “press ahead with the business plan” and make a number of workers redundant—many of whom are union reps.

Management’s escalation of attacks on the union is provoking a furious response. More than 100 workers gathered at the Bow Locks mail centre in east London this morning and decided to continue their fight.

Postal workers from the nearby east London distribution centre have also joined the action. A CWU member there told Socialist Worker that network drivers from the centre have been disciplined for refusing to cross picket lines.

He also said that drivers who had brought mail to the centre from Dover had refused to cross the picket line. They were disciplined on the spot, and then told to make their own way back to Dover—without a vehicle.

“This is clearly not just about start times,” said the worker. “It is about the future of the union and Royal Mail, and it is a fight to the death.

“The only way for the union to win is to take the gloves off, and get the whole of London out, followed by the whole of the country. Then we must stay out until we win.”

This is now the most important industrial dispute in Britain for years, and its impact will be felt by every trade unionist. A victory against Royal Mail will be a massive blow to a government that is determined to cut wages and slash services.

It is essential that everyone rallies behind the postal workers, organises solidarity meetings and collections, and attends pickets lines.

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Postman Pat and his wildcat strikes

[Thursday]

Ah, some things from the seventies are worth bringing back. No, not Bernard Manning. Wildcat strikes! Who’d have thought that it would be the screws to show the way, and the posties to take it…

Some 130,000 postal workers in the Communication Workers Union were due to return to work today after taking successful strike action in defence of terms and conditions.

However many workers were scandalized to discover that management had imposed new attendance times without their consent. This provocative action fuelled the latest walkouts in different parts of the country. Royal Mail confirmed that unofficial strike action is taking place in Liverpool and London. The unofficial stoppage was called at district offices throughout Liverpool and soon spread to the main sorting office at Copperas Hill, while workers at branches in east and south London also walked out. In Glasgow workers at the Victoria Road office have also joined the unofficial stoppage. The action could easily spread to other offices around the country.

Royal Mail worker David Wall, a postman with the Walton office in Liverpool, said hundreds of postal workers had gone back to the picket lines to protest against the changes to flexible working hours. These included the end to leave early once staff finished their round. He explained that the unofficial strikes were triggered by new Royal Mail rules, which they had not consented to. Usually, postal workers began their shift between 0500 and 0530 and were free to go when they had finished their round. But management has stepped in to stop this practice, provoking anger and the walkouts.

Royal Mail spokesperson reiterated the line that the company was “extremely concerned at the unlawful unofficial strike action taking place at a handful of sites”. He continued, “Unlawful action is wholly unacceptable and must be condemned by the trade union”.

It was this loss of flexibility, and not pay, which was the main reason why postal workers were on strike. It was Royal Mail management that introduced this flexibility when it suited them, but now they want to take it away claiming they needed to “modernize” the business and save money.

It is clear that Royal Mail management is determined to break the union and impose their cost-cutting measures on the workforce. In this, they have clearly got the backing of the government who has refused to step in and settle the dispute. This strategy is part and parcel of the government’s attempt to hold down public-sector pay increases to about 2% over the next three years. This has provoked fury amongst trade unionists and has opened up the possibility of a “winter of discontent”.

And also the possibility of the CWU being a bit more choosy with its political fund?

For many years the traditional argument in favour of the link between the union and Labour has been that affiliation wins a certain amount of influence on the party’s policy.

Billy Hayes, the CWU general secretary, repeated this at last month’s Labour conference, saying that the government had listened to the union’s concerns, and, as a result, had decided against the privatisation of Royal Mail.

But during the course of the strike with Royal Mail that argument has lost much of its support.

Most postal workers are acutely aware that their bosses are government appointees, and that the liberalisation of the postal industry – which forces Royal Mail to deliver its rivals’ mail at a financial loss – was a Labour government initiative.

The result has been a widespread feeling that the union’s political fund, which most CWU members opt to pay, bankrolls the Labour Party without any return for the union.

[…]

If the union’s political voice is to be maintained, the acute political anger at the betrayals of the Labour government must be allowed an outlet.

While the union is set to debate the issue next year, some in the union leadership have attempted to use bureaucratic methods to prevent a full and frank discussion.

The price of this approach could lead to the serious weakening of the union’s political voice.