CWU members in Royal Mail and Parcelforce across Britain and Northern Ireland were balloted for industrial action in response to a new management’s sledgehammer approach to the union’s Four Pillars agreement. An incredible 97.1% voted YES on a 75.9% turnout in the Royal Mail group. Similarly Parcelforce workers vote by over 90% for action. There was a high-energy union campaign with huge membership participation to overcome the anti-trade union laws on strikes in Britain, which require a 50%+ participation in the ballot.
In the Royal Mail group Royal Mail had head-hunted Rico Back (with a £5.8million welcome), an anti-union asset stripper, to break the 2018 Four Pillars agreement, reached after the disastrous flotation of the company by the Con-Dem government in 2013. This agreement ensured pension protection, no two-tiered workforce, a staged reduction in the working week without loss of pay and agreed working practices. Rico Back’s task is to tear up these guarantees and pave the way for the dismemberment of the company by separating and selling off Parcelforce (parcels being more profitable than letters to deliver). With all this at risk, it’s little wonder that postal workers responded in such a vibrant campaign, both at gate meetings and on social media, to push through a substantial turnout and vote for industrial action.
With this resolve and the earliest strike date coming in the face of Black Friday and Christmas online shopping, the CWU is well placed to bring massive pressure to bear on the company. Undoubtedly, strike action at this time will put major pressure on Rico. More may be needed, though. A campaign involving appealing to lower levels of management can further increase this pressure – these workers, organised in Unite, have already expressed their support. Lower level managers are also facing pay and bonus cuts and will be the key to trying to cover the work. Likewise, many agency workers, both seasonal and permanent, could be drawn into the struggle with a further targeted campaign for conversions onto the full contract.
Ultimately, Rico and co may be defeated but how many times do management and shareholders need to be told workers won’t accept the running down of the service? The service shouldn’t have been privatised in the first place. Corbyn has pledged a future Labour government will renationalise it but, for postal workers, this will be too little, too late. Like much of Corbyn’s ‘For the many, not the few’ programme, it will require active workplace and community struggles to implement.
Liverpool postal workers: From a racist insult to a strike to the High Court in London
William F. Warde, Warrington
An unofficial strike by Merseyside postal workers has been ended after a High Court injunction declaring the strike illegal.
The strike, at the Bootle and Seaforth sorting office in north Liverpool, was over a racist remark allegedly made by a manager to a Muslim worker.
50 colleagues walked out on the afternoon of Wednesday 2nd October and stayed out saying that they had “zero tolerance for racism”. A picket was set up at the gates on the next day.
The workers were still outside the gate on Friday 4that which point Royal Mail began bussing in managers and agency staff to cross the picket with the help of the police. On Monday the 7th the strike briefly spread to the huge new Royal Mail depot in Warrington when drivers were suspended for refusing to cross the Bootle picket line and at that point involved hundreds of workers. It looks like the Warrington suspensions were dropped for fear of escalation.
By Tuesday 8th October Royal Mail had got the case listed at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, who duly declared the strike illegal. The wheels of justice can turn fast sometimes.
On Wednesday the postal workers were back at work, forced back by a court order from one of the highest courts in the land. The female manager has not been moved pending investigation as the CWU wanted and as normal workplace rules would say.
This strike shows the simmering tension in Royal Mail and shows why CWU members have achieved such an outstanding result in the ballot for action.
All credit to the CWU members in Bootle and Warrington. They showed what a strike is and stood up for elementary justice in the workplace.