14. Harley Street Runners - literally

After getting sacked by Apollo, Adam worked for Delta for a few months, then John recommended Harley Street Runners where he was working. It was a small firm with only five cyclists, six motorcyclists and two van drivers. Within a few months of starting there a dispute had materialised. In the despatch industry, like most industries, union activists don’t have to create the causes for disputes because the bosses create plenty of causes themselves.

At HSR the pushbikers were getting very low wages and one person in particular was often put on part time working without notice. There was also great disparity with motorcyclists’ wages which caused resentment. At short notice the cyclists decided to have a meeting in Cavendish Square one evening to discuss their grievances. All the cyclists and one motorcyclist, Adam, attended the meeting and it was resolved to confront the boss the next morning to get better wages and conditions.

Darren: At the showdown the next day the grievances were aired but not resolved. Added to this, the boss's patronising, overconfident attitude really pissed the riders off. At one point he leant back in his chair, put his hands behind his head and his feet on the table, although this posture changed along with his composure when John uttered the immortal words, "In that case we shall have to withdraw our labour," and all the cyclists then got up and walked out. During the negotiations all the motorcyclists, except Adam, worked extra fast trying to cover the work (i.e. they scabbed). Adam refused to leave the office until the cyclists had got a satisfactory deal. Another motorcyclist who had joined the DIWU scabbed, although to be fair he had no warning, he just found the six strikers walking down the stairs as he came in. He talked to us and wavered, but didn't have the bottle to go on strike. The six of us went round to one of the rider's homes and spent a lovely afternoon because we all felt on top of the world. For one brief day, by our collective power, we got revenge and achieved freedom, from the subservience and obedience that is expected of workers in the capitalist system. It was a great feeling.

We heard through the grapevine that HSR had real difficulty covering all the work that day. The boss was forced to literally run round the West End on foot doing deliveries! Shortly afterwards HSR lost their biggest client, which may or may not have been caused by our strike. Two of the strikers went back to work after a few days. In hindsight perhaps we should have done some planning and got the support of all the motorcyclists, before the dispute started although it was felt likely that the motorcyclists may have sided with the boss.