Sunday, October 25, 2009

Workers' Fightback: Update 20

Postal workers have begun their national strike against job cuts, worsening conditions and potential privatisation, with two days of stoppages. In doing so, they have engaged in a political struggle to save a service everyone in the UK relies on, and they are lined up against Royal Mail bosses, the Labour government, and the leaders of their own Communication Workers Union.

Royal Mail has done much to provoke the strike, with management bullying becoming endemic all over the country over the last six months. In response, local workforces have held unofficial wildcat walkouts, requested held many local ballots and strikes, and finally dragged their union tops into a national strike they have desperately tried to avoid.

Throughout this time, general secretary Billy Hayes (who claimed a £83,530 salary and £14,190 in pension contributions when selling out the 2007 strike) and his deputy Dave Ward have offered management their services as peacemakers, and a moratorium on strikes. In the last minute talks before Thursday's strike, Ward proposed “a three-year agreement aimed at providing long-term stability for the business, employees and our customers” on the sole condition that attacks on postal workers are "introduced by agreement".

A leaked internal 'Strategic Overview' showed that Royal Mail want to make the strike an "enabler" of these attacks, which include tens of thousands of sackings and the impossible speed-ups which these would make necessary. The document claims that even if the CWU bureaucracy doesn't force through a deal, "there is “shareholder, customer and internal support for implementation of change without agreement" (emphasis added). The only 'shareholder' in Royal Mail is the state.

From the government's perspective, the smashing of this strike would serve to intimidate not only postal workers, but also the workers across the public sector who will face huge cuts after the next general election. For this reason and so many others, it is vital that posties receive maximum solidarity from the working class.

A three day strike is scheduled to begin on Thursday. The 'I Support the Postal Workers!' Facebook group is here.

Meanwhile, striking refuse workers show no sign of giving up their struggles against wage cuts, despite the severe hardship they are suffering. On Wednesday, 92% of strikers at a mass meeting rejected Leeds council's "final offer" of substantial attacks on pay, sick pay and conditions. This was despite a Yorkshire Evening Post article alleging that GMB and UNISON negotiators had all-but caved-in to the council's demands. The 'Leeds supports its Refuse Collectors' Facebook group is here.

Similarly, Edinburgh street cleaners are angry with council leaders' suggestions they are "set to give up their protest", according to Indymedia. The 'Edinburgh Muckraker' reports that nothing has changed since their mass meeting on 9th October, when hundreds of council manual workers agreed to continue their work-to-rule and overtime ban. “Nothing’s changed,” a street cleaner argued, “This is council PR". The Edinburgh Evening Post had reported the council's claims as fact on the 19th.

Meanwhile, there was been more unrest in Greece, which last year saw a huge uprising, trigged when a cop fatally shot fifteen-year-old Alexandros Grigoropoulos. Since the election of a new 'Socialist' government at the start of the month, there has been massive police repression in the Exarcheia district of Athens - traditionally an anarchist stomping ground. Meanwhile, the death of twenty-year-old Pakistani immigrant Mohamed Kamran Atif at police hands sparked clashes with the state forces, and a short-lived occupation of the town hall, which received the support of the local Municipal Workers Association before it was brought to an end. According to LibCom, the Workers Association demanded:
"...that the forces of repression leave from within the boundaries of the historic City of Nikea. The occupation of the City Hall by the protesters is a political act, and the attempt to criminalise it is unacceptable and undemocratic."
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