Postal workers on strike - maintaining social distancing on the picket line - in Alloa, Scotland, over workplace safety and having to deliver junk mail (March 2020)
The atmosphere in the workplace is strange. You can feel how on edge people are. There are markedly fewer workers in. I think between 50-60 people are off work. Non-driving staff were told not to come in, and people with underlying health conditions were told not to come in. However, some managers were coming in on Sundays, and were trying to get workers to come in on Sundays too to deliver backlogs of mail that had built up through the week.
The provision of Personal Protective Equipment in the workplace hasn’t been great. No hand sanitiser was available; you had to go all the way down into the basement to wash your hands.
Distancing has been possible, due to the reduced numbers of workers in the workplace. But what happens when people start returning from self-isolation?
The difficulty of safely distancing in the workplace was one of the issues in a recent wildcat strike at an office in Kent, one of three walkouts that have taken place recently. Nationally the union is demanding staggered shifts, to reduce the numbers in the workplace and the amount of days people need to come in.
The demand not to have to deliver non-essential, non-personal mail, such as advertising circulars or takeaway menus, which was also taken up by the unofficial walkouts, has a lot of grip. That mail is delivered “door-to-door”, to every house on your route, so is already greatly resented for adding weight to our bags and more time to the walk.
I was disappointed by our national union leadership’s apparently unconditional refusal to call any action from our ballot mandate, and the demand to be designated an “emergency service”, without securing any concessions from the employer.
We need to make sure demands about not delivering junk mail; PPE provision; and safe distancing in the workplace are now raised nationally, and, wherever possible, that action is taken to win them locally.