As one of the most significant workplace battles of recent years comes to the boil, Freedom talks to a postal worker about how class warfare is in the post.
A battle between postal workers and managers over the future of the Royal Mail looks set to turn nasty following a litany of attacks on working conditions, staffing numbers and now wages.
Pat (the postman) stated:
“The strike is important because the CWU is one of the last of the big unions and, although undeniably reformist, is viewed as a threat by the business-friendly major political parties.
“The leadership might be Labour, but at grass roots level the CWU has a large hard core of militant trade unionists. Many of them have previously worked in other industries with a history of fighting the employer. Others began their working lives as Postal Cadets, seeing their conditions improve when the old UPW/UCW was a byword for militant action*, and deteriorate as the leadership fell under the spell of Blair.
“If we lose, we are looking at massive job losses, even more unmanageable workloads, mail being delivered in mid-afternoon, closure of smaller delivery offices. Because Royal Mail and the Government have friends in the media, we have little support among the general public, but given time they will see closure of local post offices, later delivery times and a massive increase in unwanted junk mail.
“That the CWU might sell us out is a concern. (CWU General Secretary) Billy Hayes’ constant clinging to the Labour link is an embarrassment. No matter how many hospital wards or schools close, regardless that child poverty has increased, that they’re engaged in an illegal war or that thanks to his party and its treatment of asylum seekers racism is on the rise Billy remains a puppet. The CWU even closed its internet forum because of irate posties telling Billy and his chums exactly how life really is. It’s possible that Gordon Brown will phone Billy and ask him to call the whole thing off. If that happens, it gives the Government a free hand to work us into an even earlier grave.
“This had been about more than the pay issue and workers have taken the opportunity to include the stringent absence procedure, the arbitrary conduct code, and harassment by junior managers, late start times, inadequate equipment and not being allowed holidays when required in their decision to vote Yes. If our office is any barometer of feeling, it will be solid. One or two scabs might turn in, but their effect will be minimal. Leighton has misjudged the mood just as he did in 2003 when we lost the pay ballot.
“We can win. There is plenty of militancy on the shop floor. We’ve been fighting the bosses since the day we left school and some managerial fart in a suit carrying sandwiches in his briefcase and sod all in his head holds no fears for us.
“For trade unionists, a victory over Royal Mail and therefore the Government would be a boost. For many younger staff, this will be their first experience of industrial action. A victory would give them confidence and a clear view of what can be achieved by solidarity.
“The more support we have from our anarchist comrades and those on the left who see this as a genuine workers’ struggle and not just another recruiting campaign for their particular pressure group the easier the victory will be. The more CWU members realise their interests lie outside of any political party the better for us and the worse for Leighton, Crozier and that whole mob of asset strippers.”
* This comment from the interviewee we disagree with - discussion about the old UCW took place on our forums here: http://libcom.org/forums/organise/postal-workers-ballot-results#comment-203494