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Up with the Posties!

IMC Birmingham | 15.07.2007 02:39 | Workers' Movements | Birmingham

Following failed talks with the Royal Mail management, postal workers across the country went on a second 24-hour strike in two weeks, starting at 7pm on Thursday, July 12th. Pickets were again held at sorting offices in the evening and many more at delivery offices and depots the following morning. In Birmingham, three picket lines were formed at each gate of the main mail centre in Newtown. Solidarity from fellow workers, as well as from members of the West Midlands branch of the Industrial Workers of the World union (IWW), was impressive.

Report and pics | Film: Solidarity with the Posties! | Cov Wobblies support local posties | First round of postal workers strike | Industrial Action at Crown Post Offices Today | Crown postal workers walk out | Victoria Square Crown Post Office Birmingham Solidarity Banner Drop | Solihull Post Office workers walk out again | IWW Solidarity with Coventry Post Office workers strike

The struggle continues

Two weeks ago, up to 130,000 postal workers took part in a 24-hour strike -the first in 11 years- to stop the Royal Mail's cost-cutting plans, which the Communication Workers Union (CWU) says would only mean cuts in members' pay and pensions, job cuts and more post office closures. The CWU had warned of a fresh round of industrial action in the hope of restarting meaningful talks with Royal Mail.

However, according to the CWU, the Royal Mail management were not really interested in meaningful talks on Wednesday, June 11th, and merely reiterated their previous 'offer' and refused point-blank to negotiate. In fact, chairman Allan Leighton did not even turn up for the meeting and simply joined via a telephone link. CWU General Secretary Billy Hayes commented: "We are consistently trying to negotiate with Royal Mail but, to be blunt, they have no interest. They refuse to take the dispute seriously – to the extent that Allan Leighton can only spare 45 minutes from his other commitments for a virtual meeting by conference call. The public will see through his half-hearted approach to stop disruption to the mails services."

The CWU said support for the strike on Thursday-Friday among postal worker was "huge". A CWU press release said "No Royal Mail services operated as mail came to a standstill with close to total support for the CWU strike across the UK. Postal workers in every area supported the strike in overwhelming numbers. This support was at a level of 99% in big cities and all the largest Royal Mail workplaces and over 90% in all other areas of the country."

The union's executives will meet again on Tuesday, 17th July. If there were no fresh negotiations by then, they are likely to call for more strikes. An Early Day Motion tabled by Labour MP for Morecambe & Lunesdale, Geraldine Smith, with about 60 MPs adding their names to it, called on Royal Mail "to enter into meaningful negotiations with the Communications Workers Union to resolve the current postal dispute."

And so do official lies

Once again, the Royal Mail management accused the CWU of "blocking modernisation" and "hurting the business and its customers with repeated strikes," portraying them as the ones causing this dispute. Royal Mail chairman Allan Leighton said: "Yet again, the union has refused to grasp or understand the harsh commercial reality of the market in which Royal Mail now operates and the consequences for all of us if we don't modernise - and do it quickly. Their decision to call another strike changes nothing and achieves nothing other than to damage the business and our customers and drive more of them towards the internet or to rival operators." Further, Royal Mail claimed that, "as ever, it is willing to meet the union at any time," never mind what had happened the day before.

Back in 2006, Royal Mail and the CWU had agreed that they would work together to tackle the impact of competition in the mail market, use government investment to introduce automation, improve efficiency, introduce innovation products and raise the value and status of postal workers' jobs. Royal Mail, however, ditched the agreement, refused to negotiate a pay resettlement and insisted on unilateral imposition of its cost-cutting business plan with mass job losses and cuts to workers' pay and pensions. Furthermore, the management has been deliberately misleading the public by claiming that the CWU want a 27% pay rise. The CWU insist they have never demanded a 27% pay rise. Royal Mail's offer of 2.5% increase in pay is, in reality, a wage cut as it falls below inflation rates.

And just like two weeks ago, Royal Mail claimed that support for the CWU strike "had slipped and remained extremely patchy." A Royal Mail press release claimed that the percentage of people coming to work ranged from 5% to more than 60% around the country. It added that the network of 14,220 Post Offices was "operating as normal." These claims, of course, were widely picked up by mainstream media without any challenge or 'reality check'.

Strike profiteers

According to the BBC, one of Royal Mail's biggest rivals, DX, had offered to help Royal Mail make its urgent deliveries over the period of the strike. The company told the BBC it expected to gain about £10m of business as a result of the strike action. DX describes itself as "the leading alternative to Royal Mail for next day business mail services, delivering over 1 million letters and packets every working day throughout the UK and Ireland." All this, of course, was not mentioned by Royal Mail when they reassured their customers that they had "well-developed contingency plans".

Since the Postal Services Act 2000 was introduced, over 1,000 post offices around the country have been closed down, paving the way for private companies to take over. There are further plans to close some 70 post offices in the near future and relocate the services into WH Smith stores. Since Royal Mail lost its monopoly status on post deliveries at the beginning of 2006, 17 private operators have entered the UK mail market, particularly in the more profitable business post sector. According to Royal Mail itself, the company has already 'lost' about 40% of its bulk mail business to private competitors, including recently a £8m contract with Amazon. Yet, operators such as TNT and DHL only handle the bulk transit between major customers and the main sorting offices, which is the easy bit, while Royal Mail is still expected to make the individual deliveries, but without the full amount of the postage.

Be the media!

During filmed interviews for Indymedia, striking postal workers mentioned that, two weeks ago, some of them had downloaded a Birmingham Indymedia report on the first round of the postal workers action and stuck it up on CWU notice boards at Birmingham mail centres. Managers then asked the CWU to take the pictures down, claiming they were "offensive". Upon refusing to do that, two managers were sent and ripped them off. Some of the downloaded pictures subsequently appeared in the CWU newsletter.


About 8 members of the West Midlands branch of the Industrial Workers of the World union (IWW) joined the picket lines in Birmingham on Thursday evening, bringing with them 'solidarity bags' containing some home-made vegan cakes and fruits as well as leaflets about the postal workers' struggle and the IWW. Similarly, a couple of local IWW supporters in Coventry went down to the main sorting office in the city to offer solidarity to the striking posties. They also joined the picket line the following morning, bringing their food and drinks hamper and giving out IWW leaflets [report].

An IWW leaflet distributed at picket lines stated "We don't want a slice of the cake; we want the bakery." With the slogan "An injury to one is an injury to all", it expressed support for the striking postal workers and their "justifiable demands." The leaflet also criticised union leaders for "dithering about" instead of "planning longer and more coordinated union campaign to maximise the impact on [Gordon] Brown." "The fat cats in the unions," it added, "usually try to restrain their members, often calling off strikes or planing them at times to avoid maximum disruption, for instance."

IMC Birmingham


A quick + easy way to support the posties

15.07.2007 15:30

Idea taken from a mailout from a striker

You can easily make a widely-felt impact by writing messages of support on every letter and package you post during this dispute. Stuff like 'Support the posties strike!', 'Victory to the posties!', etc.
Every bit of solidarity is really appreciated, no matter how small it may seem to you.
It's important to support workers' struggle cos it could be you next and solidarity is generally remembered and reciprocated.

wobbly in the blood
- Homepage:

Crown postal workers walk out again

17.07.2007 00:09

On Monday, 17 July, Crown Post Office workers also went on strike over the Royal Mail's plans to close further Crown Post Offices (the larger branches usually based on busy high streets) and transfer services to WH Smith stores, with the loss of up to 1,500 jobs, as well as plans for a pay freeze and a pay cut for 80% of staff. The Communication Workers Union (CWU) has announced a similar strike action on Thursday, 19 July, from 6am till mid-day.

See report and pics here: