13. Apollo

Adam: In the summer of 1990 I was working at Apollo Despatch. I’d been there about three months when the management decided to reduce the amount the riders get for ‘cash jobs. ‘ This would only have reduced our wages by a couple of pounds a week, but it indicated that the bosses were taking over 60% of what the customer was charged. In those days there was an unwritten rule that the riders got 60%, the bosses 40%. So when this was discovered, the riders were well pissed off As we all chatted one day I suggested we have a riders' meeting to discuss what to do, and this idea was favourably received. I typed up a little leaflet and used a marker pen to write the headline. This proved to be my undoing, because after I had given them out to other riders, management got hold of one and went through all the job sheets to try and match the hand writing. They traced it to me. They then produced a three page “Urgent reply to Anonymous Circular", which whinged on with their point of view (as if we don't get the bosses point of view every fucking day in the newspapers and TV) which they gave to all the riders.

They then dragged every rider into the office individually to see who else was against the glorious, benevolent, shit scared management. Three of them grilled me in two sessions of about an hour each. They asked questions like, “Do you resent it that we drive around in expensive sports cars?” and “Aren't you the one who started the strike at West One?” My defence was that I only wrote the leaflet to express what everyone else was feeling, I just wanted to earn an honest living etc. To my surprise they believed me and didn't sack me. Anyway the Riders' Meeting went ahead at the Cartoonist pub in Little New Street. Only about eight riders, plus Rajiv and Alan from the DIWU, showed up but worst of all the Apollo management came too. It was a useless meeting as the bosses presence hampered free speech. A few days later Apollo plucked up the courage to give me the boot. In fact, the bosses were so confident that they had crushed any rebelliousness that they introduced even lower rates shortly afterwards. In hindsight I should not have produced the leaflet as it produced a frenzy of searching for “reds under the bed." I should have just approached one person at a time to see if they would be interested in taking any industrial action.

Alan: The Apollo dispute, and others, taught us that there is a huge difference between people who moan and grumble about how pissed off they are and people who have the bottle to do something about it. It takes a long time to discover who you can trust. The DIWU went into dispute with Apollo with all guns blazing but no real industrial base. Consequently it was a total disaster. Oh well! You'11 learn from our mistakes.