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CWU Leaders Welcome Joint Union Action
ON 16 October, London members of postal union CWU and of local government union UNISON both came out on strike and demonstrated for better London weighting.
CWU general secretary BILLY HAYES spoke to Ken Smith at the union's lobby of the Department of Trade and Industry.
"I think today's action has been magnificent. We've seen tremendous solidarity where workers with different claims have come together on the same central point - in the Post Office, BT and UNISON members in local government.
"Workers in London are united in seeking to ensure that they enjoy at least the same standard of living as workers outside the capital. This is a historic day; we've seen a degree of unity in action that we haven't seen in many years.
"I think the more that workers can join together in joint activity on London weighting of whatever form is only for the good. I think we are seeing the germ of an idea here today and workers will draw lessons that next time we need to be more organised in terms of what's taking place.
"We want to see the government and Labour Party representing working people and not representing the directors. We want to see workers' interests brought to the forefront and we intend to call the government to account."
"I think we are seeing a recovery of the trade unions. We've taken a hit in recent years but we're on our way back and I'm sure today's action can be built upon.
"Management have just paid a £7.2 million fine for poor quality of service. A third of all mail goes through London. The cost of our claim is an additional £10 million, so the situation is simple - they will continue to have poor quality of service while they continue to fail to invest in the workforce."
Later, CWU deputy general secretary, Dave Ward tackled the question of the union's links with the Labour Party.
"The Labour government is backing Royal Mail management 100% - it's a disgrace. Some people say that the Labour Party is different to the Labour government but it's getting harder to see the difference. I think we should have a new policy on our relationship with the Labour Party and the Labour government.
"We should go round all our members and ask how much they want to pay Labour. I think if we had a whip round of the CWU's 200,000 members we'd get £5. Then we should give it to Labour and tell them that's our affiliation fee, and if they reject it we should tell them that they have disaffiliated from us."
Walkout in Gateshead
POSTAL WORKERS from the Lowfell depot in Gateshead walked out in unofficial action on 16 October.
The walkout is an indication of the discontent felt by many post office staff.
One of the strikers explained that they were bitterly disappointed that they recently lost the ballot for strike action.
The walk out at the Lowfell office was about a manager who had been parachuted in, over someone who had been there longer and who 'deserved seniority'.
But this wasn't the only issue. Hours have been changed, single delivery has been introduced and work has been taken away from part-timers and forced on to full-time staff.
There is also anger that the top bosses have been given bonuses worth thousands, while ordinary postal workers are paid only £260 before tax.
Another of the workers said: "The only thing we can do to stop all this is to withdraw our labour. Last week postal workers from Oxford, Cambridge and Hamilton walked out - all over different issues.
"In order to get the first class mail out whilst we were on strike, every manager from the North East was brought in as scab labour. If they can pull out all these managers it shows the importance of the work they usually do!"
In The Socialist 25 October 2003: