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Why were the posties striking?

November 5, 2009

postal-strike[1]Postal workers have been taking part in a series of strikes this Autumn in a bitter row over jobs and conditions. Workers voted 76% in favour of the strikes – which have now been suspended by union leaders until the new year. So what has got them so angry?

The issues behind the strike go back to the deal that ended the 2007 national strike. Then, the Communication Workers Union (CWU) agreed to management ‘modernisation’ proposals (including significant job losses) in return for a consultation role. Royal Mail bosses have now sidelined the CWU and are imposing unagreed changes by ‘executive action’. The widely reported reason for this is that ‘the figures are down’ mail volumes have fallen 10% year on year due to texts and emails. That’s what it says in the papers. That’s what it says on the TV. But it’s a lie spread by management. The truth is quite the opposite.

Royal Mail doesn’t actually keep count every single letter it handles, rather it counts the number of transit boxes it moves, multiplied by the average number of letters per box. This number was set at 208, with the agreement of the CWU. In recent years, Royal Mail management have unilaterally, and without actually counting, reduced this number to 150, producing the reported ‘10% a year’ reduction in mail volumes

So what is the reality? The CWU ordered counts to be taken at numerous locations which revealed an average of 267 letters per box. Volumes are up, not down. That only confirms what any postie will tell you – just think of the volume of mail generated by online shopping such as Amazon, which has boomed in recent years. Consequently postal workers are expected to do more and more work with less and less resources – 63,000 jobs havealready been cut in recent years.

This is why Royal Mail workers are willing to lose pay by going on strike. Postal workers say they not only have to deal with impossible workloads (including a computer system that programs their walks at a speed of 5mph), but they are also bullied by management when they fail to do the impossible. This may sound familiar to many people with jobs, the difference is the postal workers have a history of being well organised and willing to stand up for themselves. So if the bosses can beat them, what chance for the rest of us?

For those unhappy about the lack of post, bear in mind those workers on strike will be losing pay. But ultimately, if Royal Mail gets their way the postal service will be lacking not just one or two days due to strike. It will be all the time, because already stretched workers will be struggling with not enough of them to do the job properly.

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