by Daphne Liddle
POSTAL WORKERS will walk out across the country this week after talks between the Communication Workers’ Union and Royal Mail management at the TUC broke down on Wednesday. And as deliveries grind to a halt the morale of the strikers is rising in the wake of a storm of support from other unions and the general public.
A meeting organised by the network of solidarity groups that have sprung up across London since the dispute began was held to discuss ways of maximising support for CWU members in what speaker after speaker described as “a crucial struggle”.
Liz Wheatley, Unison housing staff representative from Camden, opened the event with an explanation of how CWU members’ fight for justice and dignity at work was “a fight for us all” and won a round of applause when she added that her branch had donated £1,000 to the CWU members’ hardship fund.
Solidarity co-ordinator Charlie Kimber spoke next, urging everyone present to look up and make contact with their own local group before going on to make some hard-hitting criticisms of both Royal Mail management and the government.
“If the CWU win, it’s a victory for all of us,” he concluded.” Martin Walsh — CWU London divisional rep — spoke next and gave a full account of the bullying and intimidation being faced CWU members at work.
Bullying Royal Mail managers had, he said: “Created a climate of fear” among workers, particularly through the new and widespread use of their latest sanction “removal from pay” — a non-recognised procedure, which some 350 workers have suffered in London, along with many more in other areas of Britain.
Martin then read out a leaked letter from a senior manager to his line managers congratulating them for their bullying, for forcing through speed-ups and other changes without union agreement, before ending his speech by insisting: “We will win this dispute — every single postal worker I meet is up for this fight.
“And we will keep fighting until we get the settlement that our members need.”
In the subsequent discussion, activists from other unions including Unite, RMT, PCS and UCU all vowed to support the CWU, several of whom reported having made solidarity collections and donations to striking members, while other contributors suggested future solidarity activities.
GMB has set up a phone hotline to enable members of the public to report the names of employment agencies supplying agency staff in the current post dispute.
Last week there was correspondence between Lord Mandelson, Business Secretary, in which GMB general secretary Paul Kenny said that there were strict laws to stop employment agencies supplying labour to Royal Mail to break a lawful trade dispute.
Under the Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Business Regulations 2003 any agency supplying labour is liable to a fine of £5,000 per day per worker supplied. The hotline number is 0208 971 4217.
The CWU is planning to go to the High Court to stop Royal Mail using agency staff to clear the post backlog caused by the strikes. Royal Mail wants to hire 30,000 temporary workers to deal with the backlog of post and the Christmas rush, which it insists complies with the law. The CWU intends to show that the company is breaking employment law.
The RMT pledged its full support for the postal workers and a delegation from the union, including general secretary Bob Crow, joined the picket line at Mount Pleasant sorting office on Thursday 22nd October.
On Friday 23rd October RMT cleaners working on the Eurostar for the Carlisle Group at St Pancras International were also on strike and organised picket line exchanges with local postal workers.
Bob Crow said: “It’s crucial that the entire trade union movement rallies round the CWU and their postal members in what is a fight for the future of both their industry and the essential public service that they provide for the British people.”
Nurses in Unison joined the CWU picket line at Rathbone Place in London on 23rd October to give their support. They were joined by Unison’s head of nursing Gail Adams.
Ann Moses, chair of Unison’s Nursing Sector and a coronary care nurse from Grimsby, said: “I am proud to go and join the picket line and show our support and solidarity to striking postal workers?
“It is the bankers and financiers who have brought this country to the brink of financial ruin, but it is public services that are picking up the bill. “
Messages of support have come from the TUC, unions including GMB, PCS, Unison Napo, Unite, NUT and international unions including Finnish Post & Logistics Union, CWA AmericaCAATL, CUPW-STTP, the Green Party and many, many more.
A BBC poll last week showed that 50 per cent of people sympathise with the postal workers, compared to 25 per cent who support the management.
There have been lots of visits from members of the public, local councillors and MPs as well as other unions to picket lines last week and the CWU responded, saying: “So thank you very much for the support — postal workers appreciate it! “