A campaign group to build support for striking postal workers has been launched by Hackney residents and trade unionists.
Organised by Hackney trades union council (HTUC), the campaign held its first meeting last Wednesday in Stoke Newington. The meeting was attended by representatives of various unions and workplaces from across the borough and included; teachers, college lecturers, tube workers and public sector workers. Jane Holgate, secretary of Hackney TUC and a lecturer at London Metropolitan University, said the group aims to counter hostility to postal workers from the media, politicians and Royal Mail by “putting the post office workers’ side of the dispute”.
Holgate asked trade unionists and local workers to organise collections for strikers facing hardship because of wages lost whilst striking. Members of the National Union of Teachers told the meeting that they had been raising money amongst local teachers. The group said it will organise opposition to local employment agencies hiring temporary workers for Royal Mail.
Casual workers are being employed to sort the backlog of post created by four months of strikes. Trade unions have said that agencies employing the temporary workers are breaking the law which makes it illegal to hire staff to break a lawful strike.
Royal Mail has said it is taking on 30,000 temporary workers, double the number it normally employs in the run up to Christmas. Post bosses say that agency staff are dealing with normal mail and are not being used to undermine industrial action and so their recruitment is not illegal.
Trade unionists at the Hackney strike support group said they will campaign to persuade unemployed people not to take so-called ‘scab’ jobs. The campaign is also backed by the Hackney unemployed workers’ union who plan to leaflet outside job centres in the area. Angie Mulcahy, a Communication Workers Union rep at the East London mail centre in Bromley-by-Bow, told the meeting that by relying on agency workers Royal Mail are undermining the security of the post. She said, ”Casual workers are being taken on without police checks and without security checks and being paid minimum wage.” Mulcahy said that casual workers are not properly trained and could not be relied upon to sort and deliver mail.
Royal Mail delivery and collection workers and mail processing staff across the country are taking strike action this Friday (November 4th) and the following Monday (November 9th). This is the latest action in an ongoing dispute which has involved four months of rolling strike action across the country and now three weeks of national action.
Postal workers say they are resisting pay cuts, threats to job security and unreasonable demands by management. Royal Mail say that workers are resisting the introduction of flexible working and automated mail sorting which is necessary to modernise the postal system. Hackney strike supporters say they plan to hold public leafleting sessions, organise visits by strikers to local workplaces and visit picket lines to build support and solidarity with postal workers. They also plan to hold a collection and leafleting session this Saturday from 11am on Kingsland Road in Dalston.