An emergency motion passed unanimously at the Communication Workers Union conference called on sorting offices all over the country to refuse to handle mail from three London mail centres threatened with closure. This is likely to cause unofficial walkouts as union members get suspended for refusing to carry out an instruction from management.
In the meantime, a ballot of the mail centres — Nine Elms, Rathbone Place and Twelvetrees Crescent — was returned with a yes vote for industrial action. This is not being acted on while talks are in process, but it is expected that the ballot of the centres under threat will be acted on soon; ballots of delivery offices are also likely soon.
The cause of the dispute is the flawed agreement that came out of the last lot of strikes two years ago.
Management are backtracking on that agreement which had stated that any closures of mail centres would be “staff friendly” and would not cause compulsory redundancies.
However, the threatened closures (and huge cuts at Mount Pleasant) could not possibly be done, according to the union, without causing compulsory redundancies. They will also include mass compulsory transfer of staff from one office to another.
“Many of our members believe that this is being done deliberately as pay back for the last round of strikes”, one union rep in east London told Solidarity.
“These closures are being done to attack the union, not to make the service more efficient as they claim”.
There is also the belief that a breaking up the service into bite-size pieces is going on — enabling privatisation more easily. “The union nationally has now got to work hard to keep reps and members all over the country well-informed so that any office threatened with suspension knows they will be supported by others elsewhere”.
When I asked what other trade unionists and anti-cuts activists can do to support postal workers, the union rep told me: “Watch this space.”
Anti-cuts committees, trades councils and joint union committees should start preparing for the solidarity and support which could be needed at very short notice.
No worker is safe and no union is safe in Con Dem hands. It’s just that the CWU are next in line for the brunt of the attack.