Royal Mail Strike 8: Whole UK standing rock-solid for the CWU & against Mr Thompson’s destructionPostal, Royal Mail Group (EMP) October 26 2022
From Penzance to Wick, from Coleraine to Colchester, 115,000 postal workers the length and breadth of the nation show their unity, strength, resilience and defiance once again…
Royal Mail workers walked out for the eighth time yesterday, taking the total number of days lost to industrial action in 2022 – in total CWU strikes – to 1.252 million. At Westminster, arrogant and out-of-touch politicians once again ignored the people and chose another unelected Prime Minister, but here in the real world, magnificent CWU members proved their fighting spirit at picket lines in every corner of the country, filling our CWU social platforms with their photos, their good humour, optimism and determination.
CWU News spoke with branch secretaries from each of our CWU Divisions yesterday, and the message from them all was that our members want a deal, want an agreement and want a resolution – BUT they will not accept Royal Mail CEO Simon Thompson’s job-destroying, asset-stripping, business-destroying agenda.
Midlands, London & the South – ‘pressure on bosses, crunch weeks ahead’
“Today’s been solid everywhere and as we get closer to Black Friday, the pressure on the business will increase, especially as we move to the rolling strikes, said Birmingham & District Amal Branch secretary Steve Reid.
“Business customers will be telling Royal Mail they need to get this sorted or they’ll lose contracts.”
Morale has risen after the announcement of ACAS talks, Steve continued, but added that members stand ready and determined to keep on fighting until an acceptable deal is achieved, saying: “We’ve got 31 delivery offices in our branch, plus the mail centre and a Parcelforce depot and – and there’s no sign of any weaknesses or of any drift. Pickets are lively and strongly supported.
“I’m optimistic and very confident we’ll get a deal. We’ve got top negotiators in there,” he insisted.
(Steve, and other branch secretaries we spoke to for this article, also expressed best wishes to our deputy general secretary postal Terry Pullinger for a speedy recovery.)
“Today’s been brilliant,” said London South West Postal Branch secretary Greg Charles. “I’d thought it might be a bit subdued, but morale’s excellent and the feelings and the determination are stronger than ever. Today I was at West Brompton/Earls Court, Fulham, Putney and Barnes/Mortlake and also it was great to see our general secretary Dave Ward at Tooting – which was his own delivery office back in the day.
“From talking to members, it’s clear that the terms and conditions issues have become the top priority. Obviously, money is massively important – but if you haven’t got your terms and conditions, or your job security, then this becomes the biggest worry.”
Greg’s branch area has 21 units and includes the House of Commons, which houses its own Royal Mail sorting office, and he tells CWU News that “we’ve got about 25 members in the House of Commons and they’re solid for the strike. I go in through security and speak with them just like at any other unit – although the Serjeant-at-arms won’t let us take photos!”
Speaking from the Croydon Mail Centre picket line, Angela Whitter said: “It’s very strong today. I’ve also been at Sutton D.O. and Mitcham D.O. today and we’ve been getting lots of support from the public – lots of horns beeping.
“At Mitcham, a local small food-delivery company brought us some fruit out, which was really nice. Last Thursday at Purely we got given some biscuits and cakes and in Sutton, someone gave the pickets a food basket.
“Mail is accumulating, and the action is having a growing impact on the business,” the Croydon & Sutton Branch secretary continued. “As for the ACAS talks, we’ll have to see how it goes. But as regards the strikes, our branch is up for it 100 per cent. One guy, for example, had never joined the union before and he joined because of what’s happening – he said: “It’s because of that Simon Thompson.”
Andy Moorey tells us that the picket lines he went to today were “all very upbeat, well-organised with rotation and people doing two hours apiece.
“I was at Gatwick Mail Centre, Gatwick Parcelforce and Crawley Delivery Office,” he said, adding that there are about 70 units in his South East No5 Branch – which also includes the extremely large HWDC and ILC units as well as the Basingstoke, Reading and Aldershot area.
“We had strong pickets at all of our main units and people are showing their determination to get a result,” Andy continued, adding: “We can win. We can get a deal. Compared to previous disputes in the past, members are better informed now than ever before. And they’re really roused up. They realise the gravity of the situation and that they can’t allow management to get away with it.
“The rolling strikes next week will have a massive impact. Next week will be a crunch week.”
Northern England – ’CEO needs to go’
Jason Llewelyn heads the North East Central Branch – which covers 16 delivery offices across the Sunderland, Durham and Darlington area – and he reports that “the branch is on really good form. Where I was, at Durham D.O., there were about 40 members supporting picket this morning. People are all up for it and they all understand the importance of this dispute and that we’ve got to win.
“We’ve got various WhatsApp groups and unit reps from across the branch have been sending in their photos and reports and it’s been great pretty much everywhere – and the rolling strikes starting next week will increase the impact. We need Royal Mail to negotiate sensibly and we have to push harder to achieve that.”
Jason is pleased at the news about ACAS talks, saying: “An move towards a negotiated settlement has got to be good. But as long as Simon Thomson is in control of RM’s agenda we will struggle to make an agreement.
“And I hope senior people in Royal Mail will be aware of that.”
Across to the North West, and Jim McNicholls tells us that he visited the Wythenshawe Delivery Office, Travie Street Depot and Manchester Mail Centre and that, in his opinion, “this is the biggest-supported strike in all my 38 years in this union. The pickets are lively, big and buoyant.
“The feedback form all across the 34 units in our Greater Manchester Branch has been similar – the action’s having a major impact, an accumulating effect. It’s absolutely chocker with mail in the D.O.s.”
Jim says that “at any other time, the news about ACAS talks would make me optimistic – but I’m very cautious about this because of Mr Thompson. Frankly I’m surprised the Royal Mail Board have allowed him to stay. But members seem pleased about it, that it’s a little bit of a positive, perhaps a sign of a breakthrough to come and give speople a sense that some sort of agreement can eventually be reached.”
But as for the CEO, Jim’s verdict is: “I think he needs to go – he’s not good for the company.”
Northern Ireland & Essex – ‘members getting angrier’
Denise Collins and Gary McCrum, from Northern Ireland’s Combined and East branches respectively, also talk of the high levels of anger that their members are expressing to them on the picket lines.
“Everyone’s up for it and they’re not for backing down – they’re doing it for the long haul and they know what’s at stake,” says Denise. “People are absolutely disgusted at the behaviour of the CEO and the Board and at how they’re treated disgracefully. Our members are the people who make them the money and they’re disregarding and disrespecting the effort of our members, who know what they rightfully deserve.”
Denise, area processing rep, was at the Belfast Mail Centre picket – Northern Ireland’s only mail centre – while Gary joined pickets at Ballymena Delivery Office
“We’ve got about 15 D.O.s in our NI East Branch including some SPDOs, says Gary, and Ballymena, Bangor, Newtonards and Coleraine are probably the largest. They’re all as strong as they were at the start. Members love the job and they don’t want to see it destroyed.”
Back across the sea and over in Anglia, Claire Wilkes reports that her Colchester & District members are “really angry with what’s going on. Picket lines are strong, the support is amazing. Banter on the picket lines is great and people’s spirits are keeping up.” Statements coming from the Royal Mail CEO are, she continued almost “doing our campaigning for us. The more they hear from him, the angrier they get.”
Claire, at Colchester Delivery Office this morning, feels that the move towards function-based industrial action from next week is the right strategy, predicting that “it will hit hard, which is what we need.”
With approximately 25 units in her branch area, it has been important to keep members as informed and up-to-date as possible, she says, particularly to ensure everyone fully understands next week’s actions. “We’ve held gate meetings, used our WhatsApp groups and got it all explained to everyone.”
And this regular and consistent flow of information is, Claire feels, key to the success of the dispute. “As long as we keep getting the updates and keep the members informed all the way, they’re happy with that,” she says.
Cornwall & Scottish Highlands – ‘the fight for our future’
Paul Nicholls is Cornwall Amal Branch secretary and says that “the numbers turning up on our pickets have continually swelled as the dispute’s gone on. I’ve been at two pickets today, Hale and Penzance and I’ve got to say that, here in Cornwall, we’re getting a lot of support from our membership.
“It’s right across the county, from the larger workplaces like Truro, Penzance and Falmouth to the smaller units such as Hale and St Ives. We all know this is a fight to be fought – a line in the sand.”
Paul explains that while his branch of course includes Lands End, England’s most westerly point and served by Penzance Delivery Office, it also extends as far as the Scilly Isles, some 40 miles out to sea – “but it’s a difficult thing to organise over there!”
Up at the other end of Britain, Rob McIlwraith says that Highland Amal Branch is also “solid like never before” and that “even in small units where there’s no unit rep, like Wick, Nairn and Forres for example, members are stepping up and organising the picketing.
“I’m at Inverness right now and it’s fantastic. It’s mid-afternoon and we’ve had a picket up since 5am this morning, with reps from delivery and distribution.
“Back in the time of the last strikes, Inverness was only about 60 per cent on strike – but it’s near enough 100 per cent this time, so a massive difference. The branch is much better organised and also the members themselves are so much aware of the importance of this strike.
“It’s not just pay, it’s not even just terms and conditions – it’s about their jobs and the very future of this industry.”
Wales & Marches – ‘we can’t all be wrong’
“People are looking forward to next week – it will have even more impact,” says South West Wales Amal Branch secretary Gary Williams. “We’re 100 per cent up for it.”
Members are, he explained, happy about news of the ACAS talks, but, he added: “Although they’re hoping something can be resolved, they’re also very concerned as to whether they can trust the company or not.”
Gary told us that, according to reports from his reps, the day was strongly supported at Carmarthen, Neath, Port Talbot, Haverford West and Llanelli, as well as other units in the area – approximately 17 altogether. Gary himself spoke to us from Swansea Mail Centre – a site which also has a large delivery office attached to it.
“There are about 20 supporting the pickets at the D.O. and there were about 30 at the Parcelforce Depot,” he added.
North Wales & The Marches Branch secretary Steve Jones welcomed CWU postal executive chair Jane Loftus to Chester Mail Centre this morning, where she spoke to strikers and gave them the latest national update.
“It’s been superb here,” he said, adding that the branch area stretches westwards from Chester to Caernarfon and onto Holyhead and south as far down as Dolgellau, he explained, adding: “It’s brilliant across the whole patch. I’ve never seen it so solid. It’s better than I’ve ever seen.”
Referring to workers in this dispute as well as our members in BT and the Post Office, other unions in action such as the RMT, and those either balloting or starting action in local authority, education and health sectors, Steve said: “We can’t all be wrong can we?”