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Postal workers' strike rally
Determination to continue the battle
Around 700 postal workers attended the Communication Workers Union (CWU) national rally on Monday 8 October in London. Most came straight from picket lines as a second 48-hour national strike had begun that day.
Jane James and Bill Mullins
A solidarity message was read out at the beginning of the rally from the National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN) which the CWU has sponsored: "We believe that your fight is our fight and the fight of the trade union movement. The attacks on your jobs, wages and working conditions are an attack on the whole of the working class. The management of Royal Mail, acting on behalf of its political masters, is attempting to create the conditions for the wholesale privatisation of the post office as a public service."
Dave Ward, CWU deputy general secretary, announced that Royal Mail had expected support for the strike to slip away. Each time management give an ultimatum that the union has to accept their latest offer or there will be no deal, they are forced to step back because of the strike action.
Dave Ward emphasised that it was the determined, solid action of CWU members that was forcing management to continue to negotiate. He added: "They want to control workers on their basis. Our people care about the industry unlike Crozier and Leighton. This is a battle over the future of the CWU".
A Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) speaker from the London regional council of the RMT reported their decision for every RMT branch in London to 'twin' with a CWU branch and to pass 'levy sheets' around the workplaces to collect for the strike. £1,000 had already been donated.
Mark Serwotka – general secretary of the PCS union explained that their members are facing 104,000 job losses. They are also fighting proposals for charities to administer benefits to the unemployed and single parents. The union has had four national days of strike action in three years and its members in the Department for Work and Pensions have had 14 days of strike action in the same period. At the moment the union is holding another national ballot for further possible strike action with the result out on 23 October.
The PCS union recognised the solidarity of postal workers who have refused to cross PCS picket lines when they have been on strike. With Unison in local government now balloting and the possibility of CWU action continuing, Mark Serwotka called for united union action on the same day.
Condemnation of Labour
One theme that ran throughout the rally was condemnation of the refusal of the Labour government to intervene in the post dispute. CWU general secretary Billy Hayes pointed out that the government was quick to step in with the Northern Rock bank crisis but was not intervening in Royal Mail – a company it owns. He also reported that the Labour Party had asked for help from the union when an election was on the cards but were told "when you start supporting us – we'll start supporting you."
Left Labour MP John McDonnell described the depth of anger towards the government over privatisation, pay cuts and attacks on pensions. He said: "One phone call from Brown can settle this dispute." He demanded that Brown "call off the dogs". Anger towards the government was expressed in loud applause at these remarks.
The 48-hour actions have been more solid than ever with well-attended picket lines throughout the country. Further strikes are being organised.
The mood of those present at the London rally was clearly one of determination to see the strike action through but also to hope that something comes up in the talks with management. After two 48-hour strikes and before that four one-day strikes the workers are entitled to ask what else can be done to win this dispute.
The idea of united action across the public sector was one of the most popular slogans of the day.
Unfortunately, with the exception of the PCS leadership, most of the other union leaders have so far been unreliable in delivering united action; massive pressure on them from below is needed.
The CWU members are up against it right now and will have to rely primarily on their own strength. This includes preparing for all-out open ended action if the employers refuse to back off on their plans for job cuts and worsening working conditions.
They have the right to call on other workers for support, especially as they have demonstrated in action that they will fight themselves.
As the NSSN solidarity message went on to say: "We also call on all workers to respect your picket lines and give support to postal workers in their national strike action".
7 Oct Tony Mulhearn 1939-2019
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