Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Burslem Postal Workers on the March

Last Saturday morning, Brother P and Brother S joined a march in support of striking posties in Burslem in north Staffordshire, which had been organised by the CWU with support and encouragement from Stoke Socialist Party. About 100 marchers assembled outside the sorting office where Party members manned a stall. Around 10.00 am the procession marched off in the autumn sunshine up the hill, banners and placards waving, towards Hanley where a rally had been planned. Passing motorists sounded their horns in solidarity, and CWU pickets enthusiastically leafleted everybody in the vicinity. There was a great atmosphere. It was serious but good-natured, and you could sense that people felt good that they were taking a stand against vicious attacks on their terms and conditions of employment. At about 11.00 we arrived in the centre of Hanley where interested observers joined the crowd.

Jim Cessford, a Unison stalwart, gave the first address, calling for united action across the public sector. Brother Mick, a striking postie, thanked those present for their ‘magnificent support’ and spoke of the problems being faced by union reps at Burslem. The president of North Staffs Trade Council, Jason Hill of the NUT, spoke of the need to form an alliance of public sector trade unionists under the banner of North Staffs TUC. Comrade Judy of Coventry SP said that ‘workers are being hammered whatever their industry’ and that ‘it was a disgrace that the TUC has not called for national strike action’. Andy Day of the National Pensioners’ Convention (which had provided a contingent on the march) explained that attacks on pensions are a disaster for workers in general as companies abandon final salary schemes and take contributions holidays. John Ellis from the PCS spoke of job losses in the civil service and accused the government of ‘destroying a decent welfare society’, and called on CWU members to support the PCS in their expected forthcoming industrial action. A CWU official said he was ‘really proud’ that 96% of CWU members had answered the call for industrial action. Another speaker from the CWU described recent suspensions of union activists across the country as an attempt to ‘soften up the workers’.

Andy Bentley of Stoke Socialist Party reported that the had written to Post Office management informing them that local activists had collected 10,000 signatures protesting at the imminent transfer of Hanley Post Office to WH Smith and offering to deliver the petition. Unsurprisingly, he has received no reply! Andy described the Burslem postal workers as ‘a shining beacon’. Jim Cessford closed the rally saying that the postal workers had struck first, the civil servants were striking second, and that hopefully the local government workers would strike third! Jim predicted that the government could face a Winter of Discontent reminiscent of the 1970s.

Afterwards about half of the march sojourned to Fat Cat's for party-supplied butties and crisps, and listen to our regional secretary, Dave Griffiths, tease out some of the political lessons of the dispute. He demonstrated that only a socialist approach to what's happening at Royal Mail can explain the nature of the attacks on the workforce, and put forward the strategy for defeating them.


big_d said...

it was indeed a fine day brother P

Renegade Eye said...

It sounds great. In the US they'd be arrested.