Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page: https://secure.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/608/8729

From The Socialist newspaper, 20 January 2010

Dear Granny Smith

A Letter from your Postman by Roy Mayall

Reviewed by Greg Maughan

THIS EXCELLENT short book gives an insight into the current attacks on Royal Mail workers from the viewpoint of an 'ordinary postie'. It is not a political polemic or a campaign resource.

There are other sources you can go to for facts and figures on the effect of cuts and the like, but this book offers something just as important. It is an insight from the 'front line' into how the job has changed over the last thirty years, written with candour and affection.

One accusation that could be levelled is that the book views the past with 'rose tinted spectacles', but I don't think so. What it does reflect is the shift in balance of power between postal workers and Royal Mail (previously Post Office) management.

One section deals with Roy's first few years on the job. It describes him being trained up by other postal workers and learning to sort his round on the 'frame' (the workstation where mail is collated by hand) in the morning. This shows that a certain element of workers' control existed in the past. The simple fact is that when it comes to sorting things out like round routes, shifts, etc, the people who do the job know best.

Management style

The book also shows how current managers resent this and gives examples of petty impositions just to 'show them who's boss'. For instance, Roy gives an example of a new manager who forced workers to stop storing mail bags underneath the frame on the grounds of 'health and safety'. The workers duly comply, but with nowhere else to put the bags they spend a week "stumbling over our own bags in the name of 'health and safety'" until the new manager quietly backtracks and the bags go back to where they've always been!

That might be a minor example, but others in the book show the all-too-familiar reality of a management trying to impose its will and break a workforce - "I've seen people hauled up before management because they were in hospital for a hernia operation and exceeded the total number of days allowed off in any one year."

That struggle over who controls the workplace is at the heart of this book. Should postal workers be pliable and part-time, or organised with job security? Is Royal Mail a business or a service?

Roy also outlines the implications of these attacks on people who rely on the post service. There are touching stories about the relationship that he has built up over the years with the people on his rounds and the little ways he has been able to help them.

There is also a stark warning about what a part-time, casualised workforce would mean. "Sometimes we get thieves among us, it's true: people who steal your credit cards, or open your birthday cards to see if there's any cash in them. They always get caught in the end. When one man does one round, the customer notices, and they know who it is. Once the mail is broken up, once the relationship between a postal worker and his customers has been destroyed, then what? Then it will be the end of the security of your mail."

The book then goes over the different 'modernisation' proposals being put forward and picks each of them apart. On 'Walk Sequencing Machines' he concludes that: "In the end the actual timesaving each of these multi-million pound machines provides is, on average, about seven minutes per round"! He also looks at the impact of deregulation and the threat of privatisation.

The book doesn't offer any particular way forward or programme to roll the balance of power in the workplace away from a profit-hungry management and back towards ordinary workers, but it never promises this.

I would recommend this book. For postal workers, the experiences and situations written about, as well as tales of workplace 'craic', will be very familiar. Other socialists and activists will recognise much from chatting to postal workers on last year's picket lines. It is an insight into a sector that will see more struggles in 2010.

  • Published by Short Books, 4.99
  • Donate to the Socialist Party

    Coronavirus crisis - Finance appeal

    The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

    The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

    The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

    • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
    • Our 'fighting coronavirus workers' charter', outlines a programme to combat the virus and protect workers' living conditions.
    • When the health crisis subsides, we must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
    Inevitably, during the crisis we have not been able to sell the Socialist and raise funds in the ways we normally would.
    We therefore urgently appeal to all our viewers to donate to our special coronavirus appeal.

    Please donate here.

    All payments are made through a secure server.

    My donation

     

    Your message: 

     


    In The Socialist 20 January 2010:

    Haitians abandoned, bankers rewarded


    Socialist Party editorial

    Haiti - disaster compounded by capitalism


    Socialist Party news and analysis

    Defend jobs, nationalise Bosch

    Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition gets started

    Support grows for new Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition

    Donate to help build a socialist alternative


    Youth fight for jobs

    Youth Fight for Jobs - demonstrate on 13 March


    Socialist Party workplace news

    Civil service compensation scheme: A fight for jobs and services

    Victory for hospital workers

    South Yorkshire firefighters forced to strike again

    Virgin Trains ticket office workers walk out


    International socialist news and analysis

    Obama and the Democrats in power

    Sri Lankan government condemned


    Socialist Party news and analysis

    'Stop and search' unlawful

    Non jury trials undermine democratic rights

    Spinning the war

    LibDems show their true colours

    Marching off the dole?

    Socialist Party national committee


    Education

    Education trusts are "academies lite"

    Stop the cuts in higher education

    No business in our education


    Unison witchhunt

    Angry reaction to Unison witch-hunt


    Socialist Party review

    Dear Granny Smith


     

    Home   |   The Socialist 20 January 2010   |   Join the Socialist Party

    Subscribe   |   Donate  




    Related links:

    Postal workers:

    triangleCollective action becoming necessary to ensure safety and vital deliveries

    trianglePostal workers walk out over health, safety and junk mail

    trianglePostal workers deliver massive strike vote

    trianglePostal workers mobilise to win strike reballot: Vote yes!

    trianglePosties withdraw goodwill from cruel bosses

    Royal Mail:

    triangleCorona crisis brings new issues into the postal dispute

    triangleAll out to win strike reballot

    triangleRoyal Mail workers in the Communication Workers' Union (CWU) supporting a 'yes' vote in a reballot for strike action, at a gate meeting at Leicester Meridian, 25.2.20, photo by Steve Score

    triangleWorkers to reballot for strike action

    Health and safety:

    triangleWorking from home during the pandemic

    triangleHull construction workers force bosses to shut down site over health and safety fears

    Health:

    triangleNew laws: Unions must be on guard against attacks on workers' interests

    triangleNHS workers speak out: austerity has left us unprepared

    Reports and campaigns

    Reports and campaigns

    7/4/20

    Usdaw

    Usdaw - the Activist issue 84

    2/4/20

    Royal Mail

    Collective action becoming necessary to ensure safety and vital deliveries

    1/4/20

    Bus

    Bus drivers halt sackings - now restore our pay

    1/4/20

    Children

    Fully fund hospices to care for vulnerable children

    1/4/20

    Coronavirus

    Help us continue to fight for workers and socialism

    1/4/20

    Socialist Party

    Building the Socialist Party

    1/4/20

    CWU

    Postal workers walk out over health, safety and junk mail

    31/3/20

    Coronavirus

    Fight for safety, staffing and services - Covid chaos for benefits claimants

    31/3/20

    Northern Ireland

    Bosses concede to walkouts in Northern Ireland

    31/3/20

    Bin workers

    Refuse collection workers strike

    31/3/20

    Hull

    Hull construction workers force bosses to shut down site over health and safety fears

    31/3/20

    Coronavirus

    Key workers should make bold demands

    31/3/20

    Coronavirus

    Self-isolation class divide: decent homes for all!

    31/3/20

    Leicester

    Leicester: Nylacast worker exposes truth

    31/3/20

    PCS

    More than ever, we need accountable union leaders

    triangleMore Reports and campaigns articles...


    Join the Socialist Party
    Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
    Donate to the Socialist Party
    Socialist Party Facebook page
    Socialist Party on Twitter
    Visit us on Youtube

    LATEST POSTS

    CONTACT US

    Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777

    Email: info@socialistparty.org.uk

    Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

    Regional Socialist Party organisers:

    Eastern: 079 8202 1969

    East Mids: 077 3797 8057

    London: 07748 534 891

    North East: 078 4114 4890

    North West 079 5437 6096

    South West: 077 5979 6478

    Southern: 078 3368 1910

    Wales: 079 3539 1947

    West Mids: 024 7655 5620

    Yorkshire: 077 0671 0041

    ABOUT US

    ARCHIVE

    Alphabetical listing


    April 2020

    March 2020

    February 2020

    January 2020

    2019

    2018

    2017

    2016

    2015

    2014

    2013

    2012

    2011

    2010

    2009

    2008

    2007

    2006

    2005

    2004

    2003

    2002

    2001

    2000

    1999