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Solid unofficial action in East London
Postal workers in East London demonstrated their determination to fight to the finish in defence of their hard-won terms and conditions by taking unofficial action against unilateral imposition of new shift patterns.
Workers at Burdett Road and the mail centre at Bromley-by-Bow turned up for their first shift following the two 48-hour national stoppages only to be told they would not be paid for the first 15 minutes after their normal start times. They took the immediate decision not to comply and walked out.
This action was entirely justified. Management's right to alter start times is one of the issues at the heart of the dispute. As one worker said: "If we agree to this then the action we've taken so far will have been a waste of time".
Workers at a mass meeting at the main gate decided to stay out for the rest of the shift and to join their colleagues at the mail centre. It was also reported that management had decided to deduct all four days pay for the official strikes from a single week's pay and that one manager who had refused to implement this decision was being disciplined.
The mood was further inflamed by news that Area Rep John Coakley had been threatened with suspension for "instigating illegal action". As one worker told the mass meeting "We all know that's cobblers. Johnny was at home in bed when this happened. He's being singled out as a scapegoat and it's up to all of us to support him."
All these actions by management are deliberate provocation by Royal Mail. But if they were hoping to split the workforce it's backfired on them badly.
The walk-out was solid and news was coming in that more offices in East London were coming out, as well as other parts of London and elsewhere in the country.
"There's only four working in there", said one picket "one of them's got five kids and said he can't afford more days loss of pay. But we can't afford not to strike - it's not just about today, it's about our future and our kids' future."
Action continued on 11 October. Workers at E13 and E15 who turned up were told to sign new contracts, which include all the terms and conditions the union is fighting against. The workers responded by walking out again.
Clearly this kind of management diktat cannot be tolerated. The action needs to spread and be given support by the CWU nationally. The very future of the union is at stake. The action in London spread as the week progressed and by Friday 80% of offices in the capital were out including Greenford and Princess Royal Distribution Centre.
The question now is whether the national leadership will show the same resolve as the troops on the ground. If they do Royal Mail bosses are on a loser.
In The Socialist 17 October 2007:
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