The first national postal strike in 11 years took place last Friday. Royal Mail, the government's own "limited company" refuses to offer workers more than a 2.5% below-inflation pay rise this year. And it insists on so-called "modernisation" - which really means radical job cuts and cuts in conditions.
The strike - albeit for only 24 hours, so far - was definitely a success. The mail was halted. Pickets were joined by workers not even in the union, as well as workers from other workplaces who came to show solidarity.
Even the media reports were largely sympathetic, despite Royal Mail's bosses' attempts to portray the workers on strike as backward dinosaurs who do not want to "modernise" or "beat the competition"!
Of course, most postal workers know by now what these words mean. 40,000 jobs have already been cut over the past 5 years. The second daily delivery has been replaced by one longer and heavier delivery. Collection points and times have been cut. Full-time jobs have been replaced by part-time jobs. Crown post offices have been closed and 2,500 smaller and rural post offices are being axed, while privatisation proceeds.
But Adam Crozier, one of the highest paid civil servants in Britain, claims it is the inevitable fate of Royal Mail to lose out to private competition. In a way he is right. This is what government policy is deliberately designed for. Naturally, private operators offer businesses a cheaper service while paying their workers less! In fact the government itself gave new private postal operators a boost by awarding them its own contracts!
Of course this is a travesty, which will mean that ordinary people are deprived of a service, while workers are deprived of decent jobs. Just as it is a travesty to offer NHS workers 2.5%, to push the NHS towards privatisation and a travesty to cut 100,000 jobs in the civil service.
This week, Post Office Counters workers took a half day strike on their own, having joined the letters' workers' strike last Friday. Which illustrates one of the ways in which workers' ranks are unnecessarily divided, even when fighting for a common cause.
Since the same attacks are being carried out in all areas of public services, they warrant a united response. When sections fight alone, it is like fighting with one arm tied behind our backs, while hopping on one foot. We need all our arms, legs and brains, fighting together. It is the only way we will fight effectively and win decisively.