As the first wave of the national post strike enters its second day, those on the picket lines around the country remain determined to win their fight.
Despite all the bluster of management there is clear evidence that the action has massively hit the service. One striker from London told us earlier in the week that, as a result of the strikes which had already taken place in the capital, the sorting offices were all full of undelivered mail that had no chance of being delivered anytime soon. Even before the start of the national action it was clear that first class post could take up to a week to arrive in London.
Outside London, workers have been keen to join up with those in London to ensure that the action is deepened in the face of a management who seem totally uninterested in resolving the dispute. Workers at an Essex site made it clear when talking to our reporter what they felt. In passing they all drew attention to the fact that management were constantly looking for reasons to come down on them and therefore asked not to be indentified. One picket said that although they had not directly been involved in the earlier London action, it had affected them not least because their area included London boroughs. Another felt that action across the countryshould have been taken earlier so that the bosses would be made more aware of just how determined the workers were.
One picket noted that the temp staff they were trying to bring in would provide a rubbish service with mail going astray or just being chucked in the river. It has been reported that they will be on a very low wage (of course) with no rights such as pay for lunch breaks – not much motivation there! The mood of the workers was summed up by one picket who said: " We are out because we having nothing to lose now – things cannot get any worse. We have been subject to all manner of little attacks from the management here for so long now that most of us have just reached our limit. Longer shifts, rubbish routes, attempts to make us work extra hours because of "shortages", a constant state of being mucked about (the actual word used has been changed for obvious reasons) … well, we are not going to lose this one.!"
Nobody had a good word for the minister responsible – Lord Mandelson – and all blamed him for not pushing the Royal Mail management into some sort of even temporary settlement. One striker said that had Mandelson made any sort of effort then the strike could have been avoided or at least postponed for now but he seems to be backing the line of management in not talking. They all agreed that the bosses’ line that any Acas talks must be backed by a decision to call off industrial action was not – and should not – happen. As they made clear, striking is the one thing we have over them. We are prepared to talk – we want to talk – but they must be real discussions not a surrender on our part.
Our reporter on the picket line raised the idea that if nothing happened over the next few week to break the log jam then the action should be escalated into an indefinate country wide strike and this got agreement. As one picket said, this has dragged on long enough – it’s OK Corral time!
More reports from around the country to follow!