CWU strikers in Cardiff

Telecoms & Financial Services

‘Yma o hyd’ – ‘We’re still here’

Defiant Welsh strikers call out company bosses as they march through the capital…

Nowhere was yesterday’s national display of BT Group and Royal Mail workers’ fury at real term pay cuts more evident than in Cardiff, where local CWU branches organised a highly successful march and rally in the city.

The high-profile event – which secured widespread media coverage as well as providing a focus for striking CWU members from both the unions telecoms and postal constituencies – was addressed by speakers from the Wales TUC, Cardiff and Swansea Trades Councils, BT and Royal Mail reps and other trade unions including the RMT and GMB.

Addressing the estimated 200-plus crowd, CWU speakers lashed out at the double standards of an entire management class who are continuing to award themselves huge pay rises and bonuses – and simultaneously paying out large dividends to shareholders – while leaving ordinary working people to shoulder the pain of the cost of living crisis. South Wales Branch secretary Eugene Caparros said: “Attacking workers who have proven themselves under the most difficult of circumstances is not just proving financially irresponsible, but demonstrates complete moral bankruptcy.”

Speaking this morning, Ieuan Davies, also from South Wales Branch, said: “It was a great protest – a real morale-booster for our members and the support from the public was fantastic. Workers on a building site at the city’s bus station came out to see what was going on and they said: ‘This is brilliant stuff. We need more of this all over. We need to see more of it’

“After the rally, we marched around the castle and then around the Principality Stadium – which is right by the BT HQ. It was superb to get members from both businesses together and we were chanting ‘Foodbank Phil’ and ‘Where’s Wally”

As well as placards and banners, one image in particular that stood out was a portrayal of the CEO imposed onto the body of cartoon character Scrooge McDuck and diving into a pool of money! “I don’t know who created that, but it certainly gave us all a laugh,” said Ieuan. “We’ve been asking where Phil Jansen is, because our union wants to get him into proper negotiations and our message was that we’re still here, still as determined as ever to win a fair deal. Some of the members started chanting ‘Yma o hyd’ which means ‘We’re still here’.

After the march, the news of the PM’s resignation was greeted with cheers by Ieuan and his colleagues, he says, telling us: “We were in the Prince of Wales pub having some lunch when it was announced and the place erupted! People started joking that it was down to us!”

Jason Richards, from the union’s South East Wales Amal Branch, said that the rally and march had been “a great idea” and thanked South Wales Branch secretary Eugene Caparos for inviting CUW postal members to take part. “It’s really good to have a collective action like this and it shows the public that the dispute is the whole union, the CWU, not only posties but both companies in the same union.

“Wales has a proud history of trade unionism and there’s strong backing from the people for what we’re all fighting for here. There’s a lot of talk about more co-ordinated action – not only the CWU but other trade unionists as well. All workers are up against it right now and we need to all stick together.

“We need to do more of this. We’re looking at organising more actions, marches and rallies – not only in Cardiff, but also in the Valleys where I’m from. It’s about keeping our members involved and making it wider and bigger. That’s the way we’re going to win.

On yesterday’s political drama, Jason says that he did not hear the news until he got back home to Abedare and took out his phone. “I was glad to hear it, but what we really need is a general election to get a new Government. I’m Labour and I want a Labour Government,” he said, but added: “There is some disappointment among our local members that our MP Chris Bryant has refused to come to a picket line so far – but we’re keeping on at him to get him to come along.

“Our Labour Welsh Assembly Members have been great, but we need our MPs too – so Chris and also Jo Stevens as well need to be getting to our pickets, otherwise Labour could lose support.”

CWU president Karen Rose commented: “Yesterday’s hugely successful CWU rally in Cardiff bore witness to the solidarity being shown across Wales, and indeed the whole of the UK, by our members in BT and Royal Mail.

“The battles we are fighting against multiple senior management teams that think they can treat hard-working employees with nothing but contempt are part of a wider fightback against greedy and self-serving vested interests that have held sway in the UK economy for far too long.”