England, Wales and Scotland section of International Socialist Alternative

Covid-19: a postal worker writes on the fight back

It is already becoming evident throughout the covid-19 pandemic the bosses are determined to protect their profits at the expense of jobs, working conditions and lives of ordinary workers.

Lack of safe distancing and PPE equipment has become a major factor across many workplaces around the world. The loss of lives has not only produced a mass outpouring of sympathy, it is also building a mass anger as to why these lives have been sacrificed in the first place.

Postal workers and telecom engineers have been one sector at the front line during this crisis. A growing number of walkouts have taken place across delivery offices due to delivery staff feeling unsafe.

In Didcot, Oxfordshire a postal worker had tested positive for Covid-19 but the delivery office “was cleaned by a man with a rag and a spray bottle”, according to the CWU rep.When staff stayed outside the building due to safety concerns rather than a withdrawal of their labour, Royal Mail threatened to dock the postmen’s pay.

Several death’s of postal workers linked to the Corona virus have made headlines in recent days, including a damning headline on the BBC saying that Royal Mail is putting “profits before safety”.

On the one hand Royal Mail say they are putting workers safety first, yet in offices across the country the story seems very different due to to lack of sanitisers, gloves and other equipment.

The office I work in management have been pretty good in getting the needed protections.

My biggest concern has been the lack of distancing made almost impossible due to the close proximity of workstations. It’s lucky if you’re 2 or 3 feet away from the next person down an aisle with 20+ other postmen and women. So you can imagine the concerns we have – even if just one person may be showing symptoms, or not know they have the virus. Taking the virus back home to families and loved ones could cost lives. But it’s clear big business just want to prioritise their profits.

While the Communication Workers’ Union (CWU) have led a very proactive campaign, some members have felt more could be done on a national level. Local offices having to deal with safety concerns on a daily basis has also led to an increase in action by CWU members.

For example, at the delivery office in Warrington, Cheshire, concerns were raised after a confirmed Covid-19 case. Although a deep clean was promised, workers rightly questioned what that entailed. The reply was ‘hotspots like door handles’ and that was it.

Workers remained outside the building and the CWU branch secretary commented saying, “our members have exercised their legal right to remove themselves from a potentially hazardous situation – designed to protect their own wellbeing, their family members and the wider population of Warrington.”

Taking direct action over health and safety concerns has pushed Royal Mail into action to provide more PPE and deep cleans but we know, as soon the crisis is over, the company will be back to attack terms and conditions as they seek to remove 20,000+ jobs.

Our struggle doesn’t end with the pandemic, it continues every day because we know whether you are a postal worker, telecoms engineer or anyone else on the front line – capitalism will only ever serve the top 1%. That is why our class needs to get organised, fight back and make demands on our employers and those in power.

The cost of the pandemic crisis should not be shifted to the shoulders of the working class – this is why why a Socialist fight back is more important now than ever before!


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