Biggest strike of 2022, support & solidarity grows even bigger and the PM resigns – what a day!

Postal, Telecoms & Financial Services, Union Matters


Some 160,000 CWU members take action at thousands of UK workplaces, other unions visit our lively pickets and the Government collapses into chaos…

In yesterday’s early-morning darkness, local authority refuse vehicles – members of the local GMB branch – drove down Brighton’s North Road past CWU pickets outside their delivery office. Every vehicle blaring its horn and flashing its lights, while our members cheered and waved their flags in appreciation.

Bus drivers too joined in with the show of support, as did passing motorists – although, as the street started to fill with supporters, local police temporarily closed the road and a planned solidarity rally began. Rain started falling, but it only added to the atmosphere as numbers grew, boosted by local trade unionists and TUC delegates, as well as other supporters and members of the public.

Our general secretary Dave Ward, president Karen Rose, deputy general secretary (T&FS) Andy Kerr and acting deputy general secretary (Postal) Andy Furey all addressed the pickets and supporters – while speakers from other unions included Gary Smith (GMB), Mark Serwotka (PCS), Mick Lynch (RMT), Jo Grady (UCU), Kevin Courtney (NEU) and the TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady.

All of them made rousing speeches, sparking cheers and applause from the packed street – and even from the flats above. But the most important guest speaker was introduced by rally chair Chris Webb as “the world’s most famous postman.

Chris then surprised the crowd by adding: “No, it’s not Postman Pat, it’s Santa Claus!” and our VIP speaker then proved he was indeed the real Santa and not just a volunteer dressed up, by reading out a letter he had recently received from the daughter of a postwoman – with her very own special Christmas wish!

From there, Dave Ward, Andy Kerr and Karen Rose headed to the outskirts of Brighton to meet with pickets at the BT Withdean exchange. Located right on the main road out of town, this was a prime spot for public awareness and drivers of passing cars, vans and lorries sounded their horns and cheered out of their windows as they passed. Andy, Karen and Dave praised the strikers, updated them on the latest situation and likely next steps and, in his concluding words to them, Dave said: “Keep strong, keep your solidarity going. You can make the difference here. And thanks so much for everything you’re doing.”

CWU rep wins prestigious Congress Award

Yesterday was also the concluding day of the 2022 TUC, where our own Jamie McGovern won this year’s UK Safety Rep Award.

Saying that he felt “humbled” at receiving the accolade, Jamie, from our Greater Mersey Amal Branch, said that he was dedicating the award to all CWU reps for the “superb work they all do for our members.”

His own area had been, he continued: “The hardest hit by the pandemic. Three of the top five UK infection rates were on Merseyside and so I want to make a particular mention of all the reps for their dedication and for everything they do.”

Our national health and safety officer Dave Joyce pointed out that “the CWU has won this award more times than any other union” and also reminded us that Jamie had also received another award earlier this year for his work on mental health.

Our reps are the backbone of this union and Jamie is a fantastic example of this. Well done Jamie, the contribution you and other reps make is immeasurable.”

Calls for general election grow louder…

Labour Party leader Keir Starmer and Jo Stevens, Shadow Secretary of State for Wales, were the key guest speakers – addressing Congress just hours before the dramatic resignation of Prime Minister Liz Truss.

Mr Starmer spoke of the need for an immediate general election and of how the Conservatives had damaged our nation’s economy, plunging millions into extreme difficulties through their mismanagement and arrogance. He also set out Labour’s plans for Government, including the party’s workers’ rights agenda. He sharply criticised the Conservatives’ proposals for yet further restrictions on the right to strike, pledging to oppose this and to repeal it as soon as possible.

Following his speech, the Opposition Leader then took a series of questions from delegates, who ranged from bus drivers to seafarers and workers in education and the care professions. Congress welcomed Mr Starmer’s positive comments and the plans he had unveiled, although he was also careful – perhaps, for some, too cautious – in his remarks about the current wave of strikes. The Labour leader voiced support for “the right to strike” and sympathy with the struggles workers are facing at this time, but he avoided an expression of full support for the specific strikes as such.

Nevertheless, the hall applauded his speech and delegates seemed pleased with Mr Starmer’s attendance and with what he had said overall. His audience liked, in particular, his promise to close the legal loophole that had enabled the P&O company to fire its workforce, his reference to the need for Government to use its procurement powers to help drive up employment standards, and his remarks against austerity.

“I saw what austerity did to public services 10 years ago and we can’t go there again and I look forward to working with the TUC and trade unions as we rebuild our public services,” he concluded.

Concluding Congress business

In the remaining motions, two of our CWU delegates made contributions to debates – Andrew Mercer and Maria Exall from our Greater Mersey and Greater London Combined branches respectively.

Andrew set out a CWU amendment to a motion on workers’ mental health, asking the TUC to campaign for a change to the law on workplace suicides. What the CWU wanted to see, he explained, was legislation to ensure that, in event of a workplace suicide, it should be immediately investigated as a potential work-related suicide, with the burden of proof being imposed on the employer to demonstrate otherwise.

And Maria spoke of the need for the whole of our movement to fight discrimination against trans and non-binary workers, saying: “Trans & non-binary people are more talked about than listened to – and it’s not ‘free speech; to spread hate.”

Making the point that she is “a feminist and an out lesbian,” Maria sharply disagreed with the notion that equality for one group comes at the expense of another, saying: “We need to dispel the notion that women’s rights are in conflict with trans & non-binary people’s rights.”

Other final-day motions included ending discrimination against NHS workers recruited from overseas, improving the rights of disabled workers, protecting our justice system, as well as motions on the future development of the TUC and its work with local and devolved authorities.

When Congress concluded, chair Sue Ferns asked delegates to hold up the ‘Protect the Right to Strike’ posters that had been placed on their seats – to send out a loud and clear and unified message from the UK trade union movement.