5. Those charming chaps at the TGWU

In 1985 the Transport and General Workers Union (TGWU), then Britain’s biggest union, had a recruitment drive in the courier industry. They succeeded in getting a few members at Hand and Deliver Despatch, but the couriers and the union big-wigs soon fell out, so that was the end of that.

When the DIWU started in 1989 the TGWU noticed we were having some notable impact so they tried to jump on the bandwagon. Not only the TGWU noticed us but so did a nut case called Mark Covell, who preferred to introduce himself as ‘Marc Floyd’ or ‘Sky’.

A few words about Sky. He was, indeed still is a poser who loves publicity. He was a useless cycle courier who was always crashing or getting lost. It took him ages to go from the West End to the City because he seemed to stop at every coffee shop on the way to pose with his bike. He came to one particular DIWU meeting with his arm in plaster after crashing, using an old bicycle inner tube for a sling while dressed in full courier regalia - gloves, helmet, radio - even though he was travelling by bus! His posing was the cause of some mirth. Anyway he liked the high profile of the DIWU and fancied some of the same. He decided to found the London Bicycle Couriers Association, later renamed the London Bicycle Couriers Union, and generously offered the DIWU one seat on the LBCU committee. Of course there were no other members in the LBCU except Sky. He was a complete crackpot with crazy ideas like couriers should lower their own rates of pay to compete etc. We showed him the door.

So Sky went to the TGWU: they loved him! The TGWU promptly allocated £2,000 to Sky to start a couriers branch for them. Some of the money went on a massive publicity campaign which resulted in Sky’s grinning boat-race wherever you looked. Sky was in heaven! The rest of the money went to a slippery TGWU bureaucrat called Nick Page, who was instructed to help Sky recruit the great unwashed courier hordes into the Oxford Street shop-workers branch, which seemed a bit odd to us. Worse, the TGWU seemed more pre-occupied with hush-hush negotiations with the bosses club known as The Despatch Association rather than with solving the couriers problems.

The situation was further complicated because a tiny Trotskyist group called ‘Socialist Organiser’ were trying to encourage a TGWU couriers branch, presumably so they could then infiltrate and destroy what they had just created! The Socialist Organiser armchair revolutionaries sent in an obnoxious ex-public schoolboy called Simon Wynne-Hughes to lead the way, but he was soon badly injured by a car, so that was the end of his flirtation with the working class.

Needless to say, despite all their bluster and slagging off the DIWU, the TGWU soon gave up the idea of organising in the despatch industry, their ambitions condemned to the dustbin of history. Sky also left the industry for a while but continued to seek out publicity whenever possible, and was last seen on BBC TV rushing to sign up for the Gulf War.