Initial impressions: Royal Mail Strike

Initial impressions: Royal Mail Strike

Reports coming in from picket lines suggest a solid response from postal workers, with near 100% turnout in Bromley By Bow and Nine Elms, London, few in at Bristol and similarly tiny numbers crossing lines at Middlesborough.

Photographers have been down at Mount Pleasant and Bromley by Bow sorting offices, where they report good spirits from the strikers despite the early start and very few people crossing the picket lines.

At Mount Pleasant freelance Jonathan Warren caught one manager on camera throwing the post into the back of his Audi and union deputy general secretary Dave Ward showed up once it was light to talk to strikers.

Guy Smallman meanwhile was down at Bow, where he says there was a 100% solid strike.

On the Urban75 bulletin board, 4thwrite said the response has been positive: "Just got back from the Middlsbrough picket. Only a tiny number had gone in and there was a pretty good response off the vans going past. The office is pretty central but just off the main road so you don't get many people walking past, but those that did were pretty supportive."

At Bristol, it was reported that 7 out of 400 staff had crossed in the early morning, with strikers in fairly good spirits.

Portsmouth sorting office has counted it at 194 out of 197.

The Guardian has suggested that at Birmingham there has been a "steady flow" of mail vans with about 40 on the picket, though it is not explained whether this is mostly made up of managers.

NOTE: These are only initial impressions from people at the picket lines. Updates should be forthcoming

Posted By

Rob Ray
Oct 22 2009 12:15

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Choccy
Oct 22 2009 15:40

Pilger on the strike: The postal strike is our strike

AIW
Oct 22 2009 16:35

On the picket line in Gateshead there was a very welcoming atmosphere. Supporters form other unions, such as an FBU official who brought £500 for the hardship fund, were particularly welcome.
Pickets were enthusiastic to be supported by political organisations; they will pick up some compies of the Morning Star; they were reading the Socialist Party leaflet on their dispute and will supply speakers for a Love Music Hate Racism gig tonight and a meeting on Saturday at 1pm in Gateshead Civic Centre. They were concerned that there would be "Labour Party officials from all over the country" at the meeting on Saturday so were pleased when I told them it was the SWP!
I was told that the Royal Mail scab centres are all in the South of England although one might be opened up in Washington, Tyne & Wear, as the strike progresses.
It was confusing that the picket line was completely porous. Royal Mail, UPS and private vehicles crossed it quite regularly but this was mostly not to scab; the staged; rather than all out; nature of the strike means that delivery drivers were able to cross the picket line without scabbing! One official explained that they were acting to minimise the effect of the strike in order to encourage public support! He also said that there will be one days strike next week but that he couldn't tell the pickets which day because the company hadn't been told yet.
Solidarity on tomorrows picket lines will be particularly useful. Here are the locations in the North East

baboon
Oct 22 2009 17:08

Obvious differences with the 84 miners' strike, but some parallels: one is that this group of workers is being taken on by the state to be used as an example to the working class generally. The other is that the managers, like the pit deputies, are in a different union. The twelve thousand RM managers are in the union Unite, which is not supporting the strike. A clear example of the division imposed by the trade unions.

posi
Oct 22 2009 21:09

There was a great atmosphere down at East London Mail Centre (Twelvetrees Crescent, Bromley by Bow) this afternoon. Get down there next week for a beer, a chat, and see scabs getting a hard time twisted

Looks like there will be another three days of strikes called to commence Thursday 29th: http://tamebay.com/2009/10/cwu-announce-another-3-day-strike.html

By the way, a couple of us have set up www.supporttheposties.net. It basically has very little on it now (tho I have been given a leaked document I'm putting up tomorrow wink ), but if others around the country (postal workers, solidarity activists) want to help make it into something by adding content (e.g. news, info on local strike support activities, mainstream news analysis, etc.) then let me know and I'll sort you out a login.

Choccy
Oct 22 2009 21:20

I should be able to make one of the days in Bromley by Bow next week

Steven.
Oct 22 2009 22:56

Yeah, did a collection outside my office today with a couple of co-workers, taking that to picket line tomorrow.

At the union branch meeting we voted to give them £1000 as well.

john
Oct 22 2009 23:08

anyone know where you can find details of collections or where donations are sent for a strike fund?

Devrim
Oct 23 2009 09:48
Quote:
The other is that the managers, like the pit deputies, are in a different union. The twelve thousand RM managers are in the union Unite, which is not supporting the strike. A clear example of the division imposed by the trade unions.

I don't think that one can really expect the management to support the strike. As far as I remember, it the miners strike it was NACODS, the pit deputies (a sort of supervisor or foreman's) union.

In the Post Office all grades of managers are in the same union, plus if the trend is the same as when I worked there, PEDs do not come from the floor anymore, but are university graduates who are on their way up the ladder of management.

Devrim

baboon
Oct 23 2009 10:13

The pit managers eventually voted to join the miners' strike and their involvement would have been decisive, but their union, Nacods, blithely ignored the vote. Yet another example of the treachery of the trade unions.

It's been my experience that managers can be won over to the cause of the workers - they're not all high-flying fat cats. Why are twelve thousand of them at RM in the Unite trade union?

Fire workers strike in South Yorkshire tonight and Leeds binmen voted by a large majority to continue their strike (why aren't other council workers joining them?). Also South Yorkshire buses voted to strike today but it seems that their union called off the strike at the last minute.

Steven.
Oct 23 2009 10:39

We had a postman come to work the other day to talk to us, he said that apparently the postal managers are complaining about being made to push through all these changes without consulting, and are beginning to turn against senior management. I suppose we'll see how it progresses...

Pumpsie Green
Oct 23 2009 10:42

Derry was not out yesterday, and there was a bit of hesitancy by the shop steward about the strike in general, but good turnout and good mood among workers when I was down there this morning. PSNI were called earlier to make sure some of the blocked scab trucks got out, and despite a half hour delay, another truck was let out while I was there. Talking to one of the workers, he said that there were only about half a dozen scabbing inside. I stuck a note over our letterbox on the front door this morning 'No Scab Post', suggest other people do the same.

VisionOfTheFuture
Oct 23 2009 10:43

Theres a picket set up in Reigate in Surrey, I'm going to go join it in my lunch break, seems good. Apparently there was a few DAM members in this sorting office back in the day.

VisionOfTheFuture
Oct 23 2009 10:45
Quote:
I don't think that one can really expect the management to support the strike. As far as I remember, it the miners strike it was NACODS, the pit deputies (a sort of supervisor or foreman's) union.

In the Post Office all grades of managers are in the same union, plus if the trend is the same as when I worked there, PEDs do not come from the floor anymore, but are university graduates who are on their way up the ladder of management.

Devrim

That seems to be the case in most places, there are a number of graduate systems in place in the UK these days, if you look at pretty much every company website it advertises graduate careers seperately from 'the rest'.

gwry
Oct 23 2009 11:16

Just back from picket duty at London's N1 delivery office. Great turnout, and good spirits. Three scabs from the Mount Pleasant office turned up, they hace scabbed from the past 13 weeks. Local MP, Emile Thornberry, turned up and gave a supportive speech, although our office voted 99% to withdraw all funding from the Labour Party. The usual SWP and Socialist Party people came with the papers and leaflets, also Regional union reps. Next strike set for Saturday 31st.
Is a collection organised at the bookfair?

Deezer
Oct 23 2009 14:18

Was at the picket at Tomb Street this morning with a few other comrades from Organise! from just after 7am. About 80 plus posties there at any one time, there was a bit of coming and going - as we were leaving about 9 there were probably a few more than this.

Belfast Trades Council, ICTU Youth, Peter Bunting (ICTU), John Monks and Jack O'Connor (SIPTU?) arrived just after eight - Monks and O'Connor spoke after a local CWU rep.

Its two days strike action next week, not three, same format as this week. Got a short interview with a striker thats in our London Anarchist Bookfair special - if you pick one up please excuse the typos, we haven't had much sleep the past couple of days. Will post a typo free version, including the interview, on here after the weekend.

Steven.
Oct 23 2009 14:29

Great thanks, look forward to it.

posi
Oct 23 2009 14:45

Right, I've heard it suggested that it's likely that Royal Mail will offer ACAS talks before next week's dates. And that due to the very public statements Billy Hayes has made offering to go to ACAS, CWU will accept and, in consequence, call off strikes next week in order to be seen to be reasonable. I am not privy to any private information: this was said on a picket line by someone who is in a reasonably good position to guess.

gypsy
Oct 23 2009 17:33

Cheers for info guys.

Alf
Oct 23 2009 19:14

About 20 people in the picket at the Walthamstow delivery depot this morning. Brief discussion in answer to my question about why the union is calling out different categories on different days. They agreed it was confusing with some people going in and others on the picket line, but they thought that it would cause the maximum disruption with minimum loss of pay. One postie said he had already been out 17 days in the recent period. It seems to me that the union has already significantly 'wet the powder' with the series of earlier strikes, making it much easier for them to sell their line to the membership. In terms of the possibility of real unity and open discussion during the strike, there is nothing positive about the 'tactic' of striking on separate days.
The SWP is setting up a local strike support group which they claim is open to all.

Joseph Kay
Oct 23 2009 19:23
Alf wrote:
The SWP is setting up a local strike support group which they claim is open to all.

this is happening here too, although the main SWP guy involved is fairly sound and we've worked with him on stuff like Vestas support without compromising on principles, so we'll see what happens. previously the Trots we've been working with (individuals from the SP, SWP & AWL) have been open to the idea of spreading the struggle, and we co-organised a public meeting with speakers from Vestas, Lewisham Bridge and the Brighton binmen to push the idea of linking struggles with joint industrial action, directly by workers since the unions won't do it. of course i'm not niave about the role the Parties will play when push comes to shove, but i've been pleasantly surprised with a lot of the individual members i've come into contact with of late so i don't think it's worth dismissing such intiatives out of hand if it's possible to make arguments and win them rather than participate in a classic stage-managed SWPfest.

Devrim
Oct 24 2009 09:50
Quote:
Theres a picket set up in Reigate in Surrey, I'm going to go join it in my lunch break, seems good. Apparently there was a few DAM members in this sorting office back in the day.

I don't remember DAM postmen in Reigate though it could be after I was a member. In the London area they had people in LOMO, South West London, and Romford.

Devrim

AIW
Oct 25 2009 16:42
Quote:
Pictures of Pedal Powered Picketline (22-10-2009)
Cambridge

On a cold Thursday night in the twenty first century, I found myself a part of a situation that my parents would have remembered from their own youthful years back in the 1970s - on a picket line, with the guts of an old Washing Machine providing the heat, in the absence of Brazier as was used back in the day.

This time it was because postal workers, in disgust at the way their management and the government has been treating them decided to walk out en masse from the depot on the Clifton Road Industrial Estate for two days.

I never thought I'd be taking pictures like this in Cambridge in October 2009.
The Sound System And it's power source.
Beats with eats!
Strike Breakers
A Rocket Stove in use, with griddle salvaged from a nearby skip!

Another big difference this time was that I witnessed a uniquely new century cultural event, in the form of a post soundsystem culture picketline, replete with a Bicycle powered hifi, pumping out loud breakbeats all night in the middle of an otherwise deserted industrial estate, to a huddled audience of Postmen, local actvists, union reps and other occasional passersby, some of whom pulled up in their car and offered to get us a hot drink. True to their word, they disappeared for a few minutes then came back with some milky Coffees. Thank you, whoever you were!

The music attracted the attention of a few passing young clubbers on their way to and from The Junction around the corner, who actually came and joined the picket line and danced to the music (along with a couple of Postmen and union reps).

Initially I did wonder if these youths were taking the mickey, but they hung about and chatted for a long time, so it become clear to me that they were definitely showing some genuine love and solidarity to the Postmen.

We also had a decent selection of food laid out for us by various contributors, so even though it got colder as the night wore on, the spread of food and good company kept our spirits high until the end.

Fuel for the fires (variously a little 'Rocket' Stove, a Barbeque and aformentioned Steel drum) was easily scavenged from nearby skips - this is after all an Industrial Estate.

I accidentally arrived earlier than I should have, but it turned out to be fortuitous, as I got chatting to the Postmen who were on the picket, and they recounted many stories to me about their own and other colleagues' experiences of the UK postal service in the twenty first century. It is clearly a cut throat, target driven one, where even if you are off work with Cancer, you will be penalised by the management for daring to be ill.

One of the workers had estimated that if they were to try and do their deliveries at the pace currently dictated by management, they would have to constantly deliver post to six doors a minute for up to three and a half hours with no breaks. As it is, one worker told me that they have to deliver to a whole estate in this time (three and a half hours, remember...), including some 57 flights of stairs delivering to blocks of flats, leaving them completely exhausted by the end of it.

It was clear to me there should be at least three or four employees covering this size of area, instead of just one. The problem of course is compounded by the volume of useless Junk Mail they have to deliver, seen as highly profitable by some, but highly annoying to the rest of us.

The only major downer on the night's proceedings was witnessing numerous strike breaking trucks going in and out of the depot over the course of the night (at least twenty I'd estimate, although I wasn't counting), many of the drivers in white shirts, possibly management or temps, who should have known better than to take up a 'Scab Job', as they'll be branded with this sin for a very long time to come. A CWU union rep also vigilantly noted who was going in and out of the Postal depot's gates by marking them off on a list, so these strike breakers have quite literally had their cards officially marked.

There are a further three days of Postal strikes proposed for next week unless an agreement is reached in the meantime.

Get ready for another Winter of Discontent following the Summer of strikes and workplace occupations we've just had, as I suspect it won't just be postal workers who will be voting with their feet.

It will be to a pedal-powered soundtrack of The Prodigy, and maybe some Dubstep and Samba drumming later on, as opposed to the Punk and Reggae we had during the last one, which my parents saw and I also experienced, albeit in a more innocent way.

Suddenly New Labour are looking very old and tired.

Cameraboy

Wellclose Square
Oct 25 2009 21:53
Farce
Oct 28 2009 21:01
baboon wrote:
Also South Yorkshire buses voted to strike today but it seems that their union called off the strike at the last minute.

- A bit of a late reply, but where did you get the info about the union calling the strike off from? They actually extended it for another two days, and have called another day of action for this weekend. I'd definitely have noticed if I was passed by any buses during my lengthy walk into town that day. wink

AIW
Oct 31 2009 16:05

Gateshead, North East England, Thursday 29th October
Strong picket line with a brazier. Good level of support from passing workers in this industrial estate.
In last years strike, a lad was sacked for throwing burning wood from the brazier into a scabbing van.
Last Friday one lad demonstrated with a banner reading "Scabs Rule". This will lead to a disciplenary by the employer.

Cupar, Fife, Saturday 31st October
They are not allowed a brazier here since the picket line is on a footpath, so the palets I'd brought stayed in my car, but they were glad to be brought cake.
The workers brought up the history of Industrial Unionism and the need to organise across the communication industry.
They're not allowed to call strike breakers "scabs" under harrassment rules.
They said the employer had tried to discredit this website for the militant attitude of some of it's contributors:
Royal Mail Chat

I remember reading about supporters of a strike in Barcellona spraying "scab" on the windscreens of scabbing busses but can't find a record of it on the web...