Socialist Alternative

Covid-19: a postal worker writes on the fight back

It is already becoming evident throughout the covid-19 pandemic the bosses are determined to protect their profits at the expense of jobs, working conditions and lives of ordinary workers.

Lack of safe distancing and PPE equipment has become a major factor across many workplaces around the world. The loss of lives has not only produced a mass outpouring of sympathy, it is also building a mass anger as to why these lives have been sacrificed in the first place.

Postal workers and telecom engineers have been one sector at the front line during this crisis. A growing number of walkouts have taken place across delivery offices due to delivery staff feeling unsafe.

In Didcot, Oxfordshire a postal worker had tested positive for Covid-19 but the delivery office “was cleaned by a man with a rag and a spray bottle”, according to the CWU rep.When staff stayed outside the building due to safety concerns rather than a withdrawal of their labour, Royal Mail threatened to dock the postmen’s pay.

Several death’s of postal workers linked to the Corona virus have made headlines in recent days, including a damning headline on the BBC saying that Royal Mail is putting “profits before safety”.

On the one hand Royal Mail say they are putting workers safety first, yet in offices across the country the story seems very different due to to lack of sanitisers, gloves and other equipment.

The office I work in management have been pretty good in getting the needed protections.

My biggest concern has been the lack of distancing made almost impossible due to the close proximity of workstations. It’s lucky if you’re 2 or 3 feet away from the next person down an aisle with 20+ other postmen and women. So you can imagine the concerns we have – even if just one person may be showing symptoms, or not know they have the virus. Taking the virus back home to families and loved ones could cost lives. But it’s clear big business just want to prioritise their profits.

While the Communication Workers’ Union (CWU) have led a very proactive campaign, some members have felt more could be done on a national level. Local offices having to deal with safety concerns on a daily basis has also led to an increase in action by CWU members.

For example, at the delivery office in Warrington, Cheshire, concerns were raised after a confirmed Covid-19 case. Although a deep clean was promised, workers rightly questioned what that entailed. The reply was ‘hotspots like door handles’ and that was it.

Workers remained outside the building and the CWU branch secretary commented saying, “our members have exercised their legal right to remove themselves from a potentially hazardous situation – designed to protect their own wellbeing, their family members and the wider population of Warrington.”

Taking direct action over health and safety concerns has pushed Royal Mail into action to provide more PPE and deep cleans but we know, as soon the crisis is over, the company will be back to attack terms and conditions as they seek to remove 20,000+ jobs.

Our struggle doesn’t end with the pandemic, it continues every day because we know whether you are a postal worker, telecoms engineer or anyone else on the front line – capitalism will only ever serve the top 1%. That is why our class needs to get organised, fight back and make demands on our employers and those in power.

The cost of the pandemic crisis should not be shifted to the shoulders of the working class – this is why why a Socialist fight back is more important now than ever before!

Support the postal workers – defend the right to strike

  • Defy the high court ruling
  • Mobilise the trade union movement to support Royal Mail workers

“Workers across the UK will rightly be angered by the High Court’s decision to back Royal Mail rather than 110,000 CWU members who overwhelming voted for strike action.

“Rather than engage with the union to resolve the dispute, management instead chose to run to the High Court in a clear attempt to ignore the democratic result of workers in their strike ballot. The CWU are effectively being penalised for achieving an active 97% yes vote.

“It should come as no surprise that the High Court judge overseeing the case would back the capitalist bosses as they defend their failed system. Meanwhile the courts have ignored the issues that Royal Mail have broken agreements and plan to attack working conditions and job security.

“This verdict poses a serious question about workers’ right to withdraw their labour under the already tough Anti Trade Union laws brought in by Tory governments. It is clear Royal Mail want to try and bankrupt the CWU through court action and therefore weaken postal workers.

“The response from the wider labour movement should indeed be one of outrage. There needs to be a strong response from the CWU, and this will require the active support and solidarity of the entire trade union movement.

“This is a blatant attack on our rights and must be met with the strongest possible response. The ruling for the rich elite over the ordinary worker shows how rotten this system is and needs to be overthrown – solidarity with all fellow CWU members. Workers of the world unite!”

Socialist Alternative calls for:

  • The TUC to call a mass demonstration to kickstart a program of action to fight to defend trade union rights and against attacks on jobs, terms and conditions
  • Demonstrations in every town and city in defence of the CWU and the right to strike
  • Build unofficial action – where postal workers feel they have the strength in numbers and organisation walkouts should take place in defiance of the ruling. The CWU and wider trade union movement should support moves to do this in any way possible
  • Affiliated unions to call on Labour to pledge in their election manifesto to repeal all anti-union laws, the 2015 Trade Union Act as well as the laws introduced in the 80s and 90s by successive Tory and New Labour governments
  • A Corbyn-led Labour government — mobilise to fight for the nationalisation of Royal Mail plus all delivery and courier services