Postal strikes - Royal Mail's attacks must be met with a united fight, not isolated token action!

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15 December 2008

On Friday there is meant to be a 24-hour strike involving 7 Mail Centres out of the 13 which the bosses at Royal Mail have earmarked for closure.

The union chose this Friday to call the strike because it is the last Friday before Xmas and one of the busiest in sorting offices. Unsurprisingly, the right-wing press is having a field day - like the Daily Wail, which accused postal workers of sabotaging Xmas and the CWU of being "heartless".

But the real issue is not whether the CWU leadership has a heart, but whether it has a head, with a brain inside! We cannot understand why only the offices due for closure were balloted - and not even all of them! Why is the union not trying to demonstrate, rather, that the whole workforce is united against these outrageous cuts? Would that not be the most obvious way to show Royal Mail that we are determined to prevent them closing these offices and cutting these jobs, as well as all those they may be planning to cut in the future?

These closures and tens of thousands of new job cuts are part of a "Modernisation Plan" which has been causing problems for all postal workers everywhere! Did the CWU leaders even bother to "test the water" over this though? Not at all! No, they claim that the Mail Centre closures can, on the one hand, be fought isolated case by isolated case, and on the other, that these ballots are really a negotiating tool in order to get Royal Mail to come up with a new national agreement. Only if Royal Mail refuses to negotiate, will they then threaten a "national ballot"!

This is coming from a union leadership that has just been totally by-passed by Royal Mail in the implementation of the changes to the postal workers' pension scheme - the issue which brought postal workers out on strike last year, alongside the "Modernisation Plan" which makes all workers do more for less. They have said time and again, ever since, that they did not agree with the changes, and accuse the bosses of side-lining them. So one would think they would have even more reason to call a fight - nationally - against these closures and cuts. Offices through the north-west of the country to Oxford, Coventry, Milton Keynes and elsewhere, may be threatened for now, but they leave no office unscathed - whether it be distribution, deliveries or sorting! All postal workers quite obviously have an interest in calling time on the Royal Mail bosses, especially after the past year of management bulldozing its changes through. Moreover the strikes over other issues called for the 20th and after, like in Stoke and Somerset, prove that there are many determined workers out there!

This decision by the CWU to wage an isolated one day strike in just a few offices, is yet another reminder that we cannot rely on the union leadership to defend our jobs and conditions. It is a reminder that we will need to face the task of organising our own fights and our own solidarity against the current slaughter of conditions and jobs - today, more than ever, when so much is at stake.

In fact, it is up to workers everywhere to seize control of our own fights. Ultimately, it will mean much more than that. It will mean seizing control of our own jobs and workplaces. But for the time being we need to be prepared to take our struggles into our own hands. This may be something which has not happened very much in the past. But today we clearly have no other choice.