Postal workers are mobilising for what looks set to be a huge march and rally in central London as part of a battle for their future at Royal Mail. The march, by members of the CWU union, comes as bosses have stepped up threats and intimidation to break the workers’ strikes.
Workers from Royal Mail workplaces across Britain are set to rally outside parliament on Friday of this week. Activists report widespread enthusiasm for the march among workers after some 13 days of strikes since August.
Union activists in Birmingham have reportedly booked six coaches to the march. The CWU’s South West Wales Amal branch has filled a 48 and a 30 seater coach, with 100 more people waiting on a reserve list. The North Lancs and Cumbria branch has booked coaches for 70 people.
And in London, the CWU’s London Division has organised a march to the rally, starting at Royal Mail’s headquarters at the Mount Pleasant mail centre.
In the east Midlands, CWU member and Parcelforce worker Gary Smith told Socialist Worker, “Everybody is excited about the rally. The branch has moved quickly to get coaches on. There should be a hell of a lot of people down there.
“It’s about solidarity. Royal Mail are coming for everything we’ve got, and if a good number of people are there saying we’ve had enough, that’s a good thing.”
The march comes after Royal Mail bosses ended weeks of talks by insisting their plan for 10,000 job cuts, and devastating attacks on working conditions, was their “best and final” pay offer. They coupled this by stepping up threats and intimidation against strikers and union reps.
In a letter to workers, Royal Mail’s “chief people officer” Zareena Brown said bosses had been reporting strikers and passing information about picket lines to police. She claimed bosses had received “100 allegations of violence and assault, criminal damage, and vandalism” during the strikes.
And she claimed that 70 of those involved CWU reps, and that 35 “cases” had been reported to the cops. She added, “We have also written to the National Police Coordination Centre highlighting our concerns relating to conduct on picket lines and as part of an ongoing sharing of intelligence since the start of this dispute.”
Gary explained the threats and suspensions are designed to weaken picket lines. “People are scared,” he said. “They see reps being suspended for nothing more than approaching wagons and asking them to join the strike.
“I’ve worked for Royal Mail for 21 years, and I remember stopping wagons in previous strikes. Any approach to vehicles now and management say it was intimidation. All it takes is a driver saying they were intimidated, and management will throw the book at you.”
Despite this, the level of scabbing in the dispute has been minimal. Bosses have relied mostly on managers and agency scabs to try and move some mail. Yet images of mail centres rammed with trollies of undelivered parcels have become national news in the run up to Christmas.
“The scab labour is fractional,” said Gary. “Some wagons might be going in, driven by agency workers and managers, but they’re leaving with very little. The parcels are piling up in the mail centres—we’ve all seen the pictures.”
But, he added, if the strike is to go on and win, it will need to escalate, and strong picket lines will be crucial. “Some people are starting to wobble, and if there’s no picket lines maintained some people might start to cross,” he said.
“It’s vital that we have picket lines—we’ve worked so hard at building them. Every picket line should be a bit of a rally. If there’s massive numbers on a picket line, that can be enough to stop people crossing.”
He added that Friday’s march “Should also be a chance to raise questions about escalation—anything to end this dispute quickly. A lot of members are also saying we need to go out longer.
“There’s no point going down to London just to go back to more two-day strikes. We need a week at least, or longer.”
Rally on Friday 9 December at Parliament Square, London, SW1P 3BD from 1pm to 3pm
CWU London division has called for workers and supporters to gather at 10.30am at Mount Pleasant sorting office to march to Parliament Square