England, Wales and Scotland section of International Socialist Alternative

Covid-19: postal workers on the frontline

Postal workers have always been on the frontline as a public service. Now more than ever we need a publicly run postal service, and a nationalised Royal Mail. The public appreciation for key workers has been demonstrated in many ways, including customers putting our union poster in their windows, yet shamefully bosses are lining up ready for fresh attacks once the coronavirus has subsided.

Hollow “thanks” from the employer were soon replaced with phrases like “the day after coronavirus” – management buzzwords for attacks on workers and a warning that the capitalist elite intend to make the working class pay for this crisis.

Workers’ Memorial Day was very pertinent this year, especially given the number of people that had sadly lost their lives during the spread of covid-19, including a number of postal colleagues.

The Communication Workers Union (CWU) have fought hard to ensure the employer provides PPE and safe distancing for all, supporting every office that has walked out over safety concerns.

On the one hand Royal Mail have said, “our people are our top priority”, yet on the other hand they have refused to give sick pay for those self- isolating that had already used up sick pay allowances due to long-term absence, for major illnesses like cancer. This is an issue the CWU are rightly campaigning to change. Why should any worker be forced into a dangerous situation or face financial hardship because bosses put profit before safety?

Throughout the country posties have been saying it has been busier than Christmas, as the nation in lockdown has resulted in bumper online orders and parcel deliveries. The union have asked for a one-year pay deal (without strings attached) to show appreciation for the tremendous hard work shown. Instead, the employer not only refuses to meaningfully engage with workers through the union – they have failed to offer anything, while at the same time maintaining their own inflated salaries!

The 6% three-year pay deal, previously bandied about by the company has suddenly disappeared. Our dispute is on hold during the covid-19 crisis but there are further attacks planned on terms and conditions.

Unagreed workplace changes (known as Executive Action) are set to increase again. Postal workers are rightly concerned about the attitude taken by some managers. For example, police were called in by a manager at South Midlands Mail Centre in Northampton over a disagreement. A ‘riot van’ turned up!

The CWU continue to face opposition from directors who seek to drive this great postal service to the ground and the union continues to speak out and campaign for justice and dignity, never ashamed to “call out” bad working practices.

Over the next period there will be a relentless assault by the capitalists towards the working class, as they seek to claw back their profits and the bailouts at our expense. We must not be made to pay for a crisis we did not create!

The lesson for us all is to unionise, help establish fighting militant workplaces and build the consciousness within the working class through Socialist Alternative. As Karl Marx said, “workers at the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your chains!”


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