Strikes 14 & 15: Royal Mail workers standing firm everywhere against bullying bosses

Postal, Royal Mail Group (EMP)

All regions and divisions report strikers’ morale boosted by last week’s London rally & anger growing at company tactics…

Pompey chimes for our leader & London’s festive challenge…

“It was brilliant to have Dave Ward down here in Portsmouth,” said South East Region secretary Ruth Harris yesterday. “It was another morale boost for our members who were still buzzing from last Friday.

Our general secretary’s early-morning visit to Portsmouth MPU was a huge success, she continued, adding that “He praised them for their resolve and said that the union is nothing without the members behind it and their collective strength. Dave told them about how important it is for us to keep solid and to regroup for the New Year and to make sure we get a biggest possible majority in the next ballot.

“Dave’s visit and what he said really meant a lot to them,” Ruth continued, adding: “It’s very strong here and it’s been good across the region as well.”

Outdoor secretary Mark Baulch visited delivery units in the South Central area, including Southampton, Winchester and Andover, where he spoke with members, thanked them for their support and briefed them on the latest situation.

On Wednesday, Dave had visited Romford Mail Centre, and Anglia divisional rep Barry Jennings told CWU News of how our general secretary had talked of the need for a resolution to the disputes. “He made the point that of course we want and we need to reach an agreement – but that it’s got to be the right agreement. It’s got to be an agreement that works for our members, as well as for the business and also for the public,” explained Barry, “which was totally spot on and good for our members to hear.

“It was also good to get a bit of local media coverage on Wednesday, when our Eastern No5 Branch Secretary Andy Beeby was interviewed about the dispute and made his points really well.” Morale has been up this week after the London protest, Barry continued, saying: “After that rally, it’s all been really positive this week. For example, I’ve had members from places in Norfolk and Suffolk telling me it was the first time they’d been to London and that they’d met other CWU members from up north who also had never been to London and they talked about how much they felt they had in common, that they’d come away with a strong feeling of all being together in the same struggle.”

The last few days have also been very difficult for many members, said the Anglia rep, who cited several instances of members being refused sick pay and of reps and activists being suspended. “But all this is just making members angrier instead of being intimidated.”

In London, divisional rep Mark Dolan dismisses the company’s anti-strike propaganda as “rhetoric,” telling us that “today and yesterday, we’ve worked out that it’s 97% rock-solid across London. Despite the weather and the freezing cold, the pickets have been strongly supported – and I’m running out of words to describe how fantastic our members are!” Mark notes that the company’s provocations have impacted increasing numbers of members – “we’ve got branch secretaries and area reps who are suspended on trumped-up charges and it’s all aimed at breaking people’s spirits and breaking the strike.

But the union’s determination has not wavered and good humour and high spirits have been much in evident across the capital, he continued, saying: “On Wednesday, there was a great atmosphere at Whitechapel when Dave Ward came along. We had ‘frosty the snowman’ and ‘Santa’ and Christmas trees everywhere – it was brilliant.

“We’re all ready for next week. We’ve challenged our pickets in London to be vibrant and festive – lots of carols and more ‘Santas’ and all sorts. Let’s see what the best turnout is!”

Scotland’s Furey, Belfast boogies & The North is solid…

Acting DGSP Andy Furey was up in Edinburgh yesterday, addressing a lively CWU rally held outside the Scottish Parliament, which was also addressed by national officer Davie Robertson and divisional rep Tam Dewar, as well as three MSPs representing the SNP, Labour, and Green parties and a speaker from the RMT. Tam Dewar told CWU News: “It was a huge success and there were hundreds of us there, Edinburgh members and also delegations from Glasgow, Stirling, Falkirk, Fife and other towns.

“All of Scotland was represented and the commitment our members gave to come down to Holyrood was fantastic.

“I reckon there were about 600 or so altogether and we were chanting: ‘Thompson out’ and ‘Sack the Board’. It was a good speech from Andy, who gave us all a full update on the counter-proposal the union’s put to the business and also from Davie as well. The non-CWU speakers got a big cheer as well for their solidarity and support towards us.”

Belfast saw a lively rally yesterday as well, reported divisional rep Fra Martin. “We organised a big solidarity event at Tomb Street – the biggest delivery office in Northern Ireland and the street was packed with about 200 members,” he said. “We were all wearing ‘Santa’ hats and we also had a DJ playing loads of Christmas tunes as well as the classic ‘I’m Part of the union’. And there were speeches from our executive member Bobby Weatherall and myself and other trade unions were there supporting us too ”

Fra said that members from Northern Ireland who had attended last Friday’s London rally had all returned enthused. “I didn’t go myself,” he explained, “as we’d decided to invite lay members form different workplaces to go rather than the branch officers so that they’d all have a story to tell to their workplaces when they returned – and they did. They loved it. They said it had been massive and they couldn’t believe the numbers there.

“Now we’ve had a positive couple of days and we’re all ready for next week.”

One of the most memorable speeches at last week’s London rally came from North Wales/North West divisional rep Ian Taylor, who vowed to the thousands in Parliament Square that the union would not settle this dispute until justice had been done for our suspended and victimised reps, activists and members. And speaking to us yesterday, he said that, this week, he had received many appreciative comments from members for highlighting the issue so prominently.

“The victimisation has been, I think, a particularly distasteful feature of this dispute. It’s cowardly,” said Ian, adding: “We do not leave anybody behind who’s been attacked in this way. Standing up to the bullies is part and parcel of what we do.

“Overall, these two strikes days have gone remarkably well – beyond expectations,” he continued. Support for union grows and Mr Thompson’s popularity wanes by the day and, as one members said to me today: ‘This has gone too far for us to turn back’.”

Looking ahead to the strikes planned for the 23rd and 24th, Ian said: “Our morale is up, our spirits are up and we’re going to try to give it a festive feel next week – let’s just say we’re working on a few ideas.”

Sheffield’s steel, Midlands magnificent & South West awesome…

“The feeling is that there’s just no alternative,” said North East divisional rep Steve Warren, when asked what the overall mood was among members about the dispute at the moment. “The company’s position is unacceptable and we just have to carry on with the action. That’s why it’s keeping absolutely solid.”

As well as keeping up his tour of workplace picket lines, our general secretary is also communicating via live broadcasts with other locations and yesterday, one of them was Sheffield CDO and Steve said that this is a large unit in the centre of the city. “There’s around 200 members there and it was executive member Steve Haliwell who did the broadcast with Dave – it went very well. And also one of our members from that unit, Rohan Kon, was interviewed on BBC news yesterday morning. So we’re definitely getting our message across.”

In the interview, Rohan was asked to explain what the strike was about and she replied: “Put simply we’re here to save Royal Mail. If the CEO Simon Thompson had his way, all this would be gone” and went on to say that the CWU had received “huge support from the public and from small businesses.”

On the company’s latest attacks on sick pay, Steve said that, in his opinion, “it’s part of a Royal Mail strategy – a  kind of intimidation. People need money for either heating or eating. And to be threatened with not having any pay when they’re genuinely off sick is very stressful. But if management thought this was going to force people back to work, they’re mistaken – it’s making people more determined than ever.

“As for next week, I’ve already been invited to picket lines with turkey on the menu!”

In Sheffield, as in many other towns and cities around the country, CWU strikers have met up with and showed their support for other groups of striking workers, taking our union’s banners and placards to their picket lines and giving solidarity to their struggles for fair pay and in defence of terms and conditions. Yesterday, Sheffield CWU strikers stood together with nurses from the RCN and on Wednesday, our members in various parts of the UK visited picket lines of the rail workers from the RMT.

In Birmingham, a joint event is planned for next Monday evening, when strikers from various different unions and sectors will be invited to the CWU’s branch office, reported Midlands divisional rep Paul Kennedy, who said: “It starts at 7pm and we’ll have speakers from the NHS and from the RMT and I’ll be speaking for the CWU – and we’re organising a special Birmingham curry for everyone too. It’ll be great.

Our own dispute is, he said “holding up really well. Members are now dug in and sticking with it. There’s a real solid determination to see it through, as they all know what’s at stake, the future of the service.

Paul spoke angrily about the way that the company is currently treating the workforce, describing the attack on sick pay as “just cruelty.

“It’s a demonstration of cruelty to try to force people into work who are not well and should be off sick,” he said, adding that this was particularly vindictive at this time of year. We’re telling people to lodge grievances.

“The feedback I’m getting overall is that the London rally was a huge boost, that it’s remaining solid and that we’re all ready to go again next week.”

And from down in the South West, regional secretary Kevin Beazer said that yesterday and Wednesday had been “as good as it has all along. People realise that the business is not serious about negotiations and our members are toughening up. The last memo Royal Mail put out about managers going out on delivery has wound people up even more. And the work’s stacked everywhere – there are piles and piles of mail. I think it’s happening even more here than in other regions

“I’ve gone to pickets early in the morning and I’m in awe of the people who turn up – in good spirits and truly resolute. It’s all good humoured – despite it being very, very cold – and they’re telling me: ‘We can’t stop now’ and ‘We’ve got to continue until the end’.”

“It’s been hard for people, but our reps and our members have been outstanding.

Kevin also praised the organisation and the turnout last week, saying that “we had about 200 people from each of our South West branches at the London rally and there were reps and members who’d never been on anything like that. People have been telling me all week that it gave them a massive lift.”