Postal workers: striking is the only option

This is from today’s Swindon Advertiser

POSTAL staff feel they have a moral obligation to strike even though they are frightened about the consequences of taking on Royal Mail bosses, says a union leader.

Chris Rye, branch secretary of the Communication Workers’ Union (CWU), spoke last night only hours before 1,010 Swindon postal workers were set to strike.

He said workers from the Dorcan Mail Centre – including employees from the mail centre, logistics, delivery and handling departments – were striking for 24 hours from 4am today.

His comments came days after it was announced that the company was to recruit around 30,000 temporary employees in the lead up to Christmas – action the union calls “illegal and unethical”.

The Swindon strike will be followed by a 24-hour walkout of almost 700 employees in Wiltshire, from 4am on Friday.

Mr Rye said: “People are scared, I am not going to lie. No-one wants to lose money and they know they are coming into confrontation with management making many worried and wary.

“Workers think their arguments are morally correct, there’s no doubt, but when they face difficulties from day to day sometimes you have to make moves like this.”

Mr Rye said he was unhappy with the way the dispute had been handled by the Government. He said: “The way this is being dealt with you would think there was a Conservative government in place with Margaret Thatcher at the helm.

“The Royal Mail and the Government expect the union to follow all the rules and the law when balloting and conducting industrial action so they should be expected to do the same thing themselves but by bringing in 30,000 casual employees they’re attempting illegal action.”

He said bringing in temporary employees would be unethical and unacceptable.

Mr Rye said: “There clearly won’t be enough time to vet these employees either, meaning there are fears among workers that people’s security is at risk.”

He added that 120,000 workers will be striking in the next two days of action and said if a deal was not agreed he expected a new set of strikes next week.

A Royal Mail spokesman said: “The 30,000 people we are planning to recruit will be temporary vetted people engaged directly by Royal Mail, who are separate to the vetted agency staff who, as a matter of course, work with Royal Mail throughout the year to help us deal with fluctuations in volumes, particularly in the run up to Christmas, and clearly all of this is absolutely in line with employment law.”

THE CWU’s national leadership warned of further strikes and attacked Business Secretary Lord Mandelson, claiming he was working to “undermine the dispute”.

General secretary Billy Hayes accused Lord Mandelson of being the “minister without responsibility” while Dave Ward, the deputy general secretary, said the Royal Mail had no intention of resolving the dispute and seemed intent on “sidelining” the concerns of postal workers. Mr Ward, who led union’s negotiators during marathon talks, said that Royal Mail managing director Mark Higson had “wiped out” any progress which was made.

In response a Royal Mail spokeswoman said: “Royal Mail said that it had agreed a set of words with the CWU over the last 24 hours that they had agreed to take to their national executive. Royal Mail finds it outrageous that the CWU leadership can accuse it during their press conference of reneging on that agreement which we were expecting the union to rubber stamp today and we remain happy to sign tonight.”

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