By John Millington, Morning Star
LAYING THE BLAME: Lord Mandelson attempted to push the responsibility for Royal Mail’s difficulties on to unions, saying that they had a “negative attitude.”
Thousands of postal workers have picketed delivery centres across south-east London morning in an “unprecedented” show of industrial power over jobs, pay and cuts.
As many workers from across Britain were rising to leave for work, postal workers had already formed picket lines outside all 28 delivery centres in south-east London by 5am on Wednesday.
The action, which was called by the Communication Workers Union (CWU), comes hot on the heels of similar industrial stoppages taken by Scottish postal workers two weeks ago.
These latest walkouts were the first of a three-day strike strategy initiated by the union.
The actions took place at delivery centres, with strikes scheduled to take place at distribution and mail sorting offices today and tomorrow.
Among the delivery offices affected yesterday were New Cross, Peckham, Kennington, Mandela Way and Catford.
Hailing the success of the strike action, London divisional representative Martin Walsh, who visited several of the picket lines, labelled the turnout an “unprecedented success in modern times.
“Out of a unionised work force of 1,500, only 28 people went to work this morning, an average of only one for each delivery centre in the whole of south-east London,” an ecstatic Mr Walsh told the Star.
“We are out today to try to stop the government rubbishing a perfectly good service to the public.”
Mr Walsh was also keen to highlight a rare victory at the High Court, where Royal Mail attempted to get an injunction on the CWU.
“Royal Mail employers attempted to gain an injunction against the union and lost. Because of this, they had to pay all the court fees,” he said.
Despite the recent climbdown by Lord Mandelson of putting the part-privatisation of Royal Mail on “indefinite hold,” problems remain for postal workers.
Lord Mandelson attempted to push the responsibility for Royal Mail’s difficulties on to unions, saying that they had a “negative attitude.”
However, a spokeswoman for the CWU said that postal workers had been forced into a corner by unreasonable management who had not implemented all four phases of the modernisation agreement.
“As we have stated repeatedly, the first three phases of the modernisation agreement between Royal Mail and unions have been implemented and we are happy with this.
The problem is the fourth phase. They have not brought in new machinery and have not set up working parties to improve industrial relations.
They have simply laid people off and refused point blank to meet with us and negotiate these outstanding issues,” she said.
The CWU spokeswoman warned that more industrial action was to follow if management did not return to the negotiating table.
“Mail distribution staff will walk out Thursday and mail sorting offices will form picket lines on Friday,” she said.
She added that the biggest of these will be at 5pm today at Willesden distribution centre in north London.
The CWU will be holding a national day of industrial action and demonstration on Friday July 17, when postal workers from across the country will strike, refuse overtime or demonstrate outside the gates of their workplaces.