Around 600 postalworkers and other trade unionists took part in a national demonstration called by the Communication Workers’ Union in Stoke on 19 January. Over a hundred CWU members at the Burslem office have been on strike since 18 December in support of twelve victimised colleagues suspended by Royal Mail management last September.
The background to this action is the CWU postal executive’s vote to call off national action over pay, pensions and jobs and leave discussions over new “flexible conditions” to local negotiations. This has left local managers attempting to push through new working arrangements, knowing they will be backed by national Royal Mail management.
More militant offices who resist will be most likely to be subjected to these attacks. The bosses know the CWU will only fight branch by branch, rather than with national action. This a point was made by the Burslem strikers who lobbied the recent meeting between CWU leaders and national Royal Mail management.
At the rally at the end of the demonstration — addressed by General Secretary Billy Hayes and Postal Deputy General Secretary S Dave Ward — the strikers and their reps made clear their determination to continue the strike until their colleagues are reinstated. They stressed the importance of maintaining the financial support they have received, and winning the planned ballot of the 1,500 postalworkers in other North Staffordshire CWU branches.
As they argue, without extending the action and putting further pressure on Royal Mail, the tremendous solidarity the strikers have shown, may become isolated and those who have been victimised will be forced to rely on lengthy employment tribunals where they can only win compensation, rather than reinstatement.
Lee Barron, Midlands Regional Secretary of the CWU, has issued the following report on a return to work in Burslem.
At 06.15 this morning [24 January] over 100 members at the Burslem Delivery Office marched back to work following a breakthrough at national level in their dispute with Royal Mail. With heads held high they marched behind the Burslem banner through the gates and into work for the first time in over 5 weeks.
The details of the breakthrough are as follows:
- independent element to all necessary appeals through a direct link to the National Appeals Panel
- no further cases to be brought
- a full independent review into Employee and Industrial Relations at the Burslem Office
- no annual leave deductions
In addition the Delivery Office Manager at the Office when the strike began is no longer in Burslem.
The above represents enough progress for the membership to return to work, they began the strike to get an independent process to look into the cases; we have secured that with the NAP.
This is a milestone on the road to justice that Burslem, the Branch and the Region are determined to achieve. If Royal Mail go back on any of the assurances they have given to the DGS then the Burslem strike will be back on. The courage the membership has shown throughout has been unequalled in the CWU, notice given to take the strike to 8 weeks had been agreed leading this to potentially become the longest strike in our history has forced Royal Mail to open the doors to transparency and allow an independent look into how it has corruptly handled these cases.
We remain stead fast in our determination for justice, your support along the way has helped us achieve a breakthrough – united we stand, together we will win.
I will keep you updated as events occur.
Lee Barron - Midlands Regional Secretary