Posties on Strike!

23 Oct

On Thursday the 22nd, In Manchester 1400 mail centre staff went on strike and nationally 42,000 mail centre staff went on a 24 hour strike. As a part of their strategy, 78,000 of the delivery workers will follow them on the following day. According to the CWU’s General Secretary Dan Ward, “Postal workers do not want to have to take strike action, but neither are they prepared to put up with continuing attacks from a management which is failing” (CWU, press release 13.10.09).

Why are the postal workers striking? The Communication Workers Union (CWU) Royal Mail branch has called this strike in response to the breach of their agreement. The said agreement was one on modernisation, pay, and conditions. The strike is aimed at addressing the rise of outsourcing, the depletion of pensions, and jobs. In an article in Socialist Worker magazine, a leaked powerpoint showed the aims of management to be: “Deliver the necessary 2009 changes with or without union engagement”; “Deliver ongoing changes required to complete the transformation-both operation and people/ relationships”; “Maintain stakeholder confidence”; and, “minimise impact on customers”. According to the UK Independent, in addition to the management’s desire to “deliver”, “with or without union engagement”, the Prime Minister Gordon Brown has urged the Postal Workers back to the table or go through the independent arbiter Acas, a conciliation service.

However, mediation and modernisation won’t solve the problem. Despite Business Secretary Lord Mandelson, Gordon Brown, and the Labour backbenchers’ attempts at political mediation the bosses have a record of occupational and economic manipulation.

At the frontlines of the protest on Thursday, I interviewed an organizer and postal worker who I call Jimmy X. In response to the 30,000 temporary scabs the Royal Mail is in the process of hiring he had this to say: “there will be a police presence to escort them.’ ‘We have to keep it legal, because if we control it then it is official and if they control it is unofficial”. Therefore, under the current law any interference with the police may be seen as unlawful. In a later exchange Jimmy stated that, “they are now bringing in agency people to wind us up staff in Manchester sat in the canteen today in protest”. In accordance with the management’s strategy of disruption, however, according to the Guardian’s 22nd of October coverage, the union will seek an injunction to stop the scabs as an illegal strike breaking measure.

The fight is twofold: outsourcing, and conditions. Since the conservative reign of Thatcher into the expected cuts under Prime Minister Gordon Brown the public sector has been increasingly open to privatisation and public-private partnerships. One such use of public funds and resources for private gain was described by Jimmy as private mail services dropping off letters to the Royal Mail, and while they pay the RM 13 pence per letter their profit margin is intact. The problem with this is: the postal workers still deliver it.

Since private companies deposit a lump sum to pay the RM’s charge on the letter the private services charge to the consumer is profit gained from using the public postal service; this in Jimmy X’ words is the private sector “cherry picking all of the raw services”. This is absolutely unacceptable according to Jimmy X. Among honks of support and waves of gratitude from commuters and customers he has described this fight as “defending the postal service”. He also stated for those that wanted to assist the striking workers, “write [also call, and e-mail] their MP’s and tell them to abide by the [2007] agreement”.

In this time of economic distress, and employment worsens the public is behind the strikers and behind a recovery for all of us. More strike action is on hold for the next six days, but next week 43,700 (Manchester evening news, CWU, The Guardian, and The Independent) are expected to follow the striking postal workers next week.

For the e-published version, go here:


One Response to “Posties on Strike!”

  1. Brendan Macaluso February 12, 2012 at 11:04 PM #

    Thanks for the blog article.Really thank you! Keep writing.

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