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Royal Mail: Unofficial action gets results

Over one hundred postmen and postwomen at Runcorn Delivery Office decided to celebrate Bastille Day in style and hold a 24-hour unofficial strike against working conditions.

Postal workers have now been promised a five day, forty hour week, but must find it themselves by increasing their workload. Deliveries have been over-loaded at Runcorn for years and repeated requests to management and the union have fallen on deaf ears. Even when proposals were put forward, management refused to implement them.

Eventually, with the introduction of the ‘Fit To Deliver' programme, there was some hope that deliveries would be cut back to the standard of two and a half hours. This proved not to be the case when management decided to revise the indoor aspects of postal work without giving consideration to the actual deliveries. They then tried to bring in a five-day week for full-time staff, but excluded part-time staff from getting one. The workforce decided to stand together and vote out this divisive proposal. CWU members at Runcorn view the national union as just another layer of management who are looking after their own interests, and are fair game to be taken on in a fight. The vast majority of staff have opted out of paying into the political fund on the grounds that the Labour Party does not look after the interests of the working class. Disillusionment with ‘politics' is further reflected in the fact that before the 1997 General Election, there were ten Labour Party members working at Runcorn, and none now. Union meetings held outside working hours are very well attended and, in the past, guest speakers have included Unison members who where suspended by Labour controlled Sefton Council. Over the years, there has been a growing feeling that, to gain any improvement in working conditions staff, must look to themselves and not to the union. The elected local representatives routinely refuse to sign any proposals without calling a meeting for staff to discuss the issues and then holding a vote.

On the day of the strike, only two scabs continued working as seventy plus staff stayed on picket duty for most of the morning. A further twenty turned up that night in case management tried to bring mail in. Management have now promised to review overloaded deliveries, look at the lack of catering facilities, which currently consist of an ancient chocolate machine and an unreliable coffee/tea machine, and investigate the lack of car parking facilities.

Staff have been working to rule since the middle of June. This involves not starting work before their official start time and breaking off deliveries at 09.30 to return to the office at their official break times. The mood is there to take on both the bosses and the union and it will be a sharp operator who gets anything past the staff at Runcorn Delivery Office. Mind you, this will never stop them trying - as Catalyst goes to press, there are signs the management are already trying to go back on the agreements which came out of the strike.

Do you work in the postal service or communications industry?
Do you want a fair deal for all workers?

To join a network of like-minded communication workers, or simply find out more, contact Communication Workers' Network; CWN-SF, PO Box 29, SWPDO, Manchester M15 5HW

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