Postal workers take on the job slashers - all workers have a stake in their fight

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3 November 2009

This Friday and next Monday another two 24-hour national postal strikes will take place. Last weeks' were solid, despite numerous previous rolling strikes. This is evidence of the strength of postal workers' feelings.

When hundreds of thousands have been forced onto the dole by the crisis, the government's vicious attacks against posties' jobs and conditions are even more unacceptable. Especially when the same government is lavishing hundreds of billions of pounds on the profit sharks, thereby fuelling a new wave of speculation on our backs.

In these days of social emergency, every single job is important. The working class cannot tolerate any more jobs being cut!

The politicians' pro-business attacks

Ministers are keeping a remarkably low profile. Given the general sympathy enjoyed by the posties among the public, they are trying very hard to pretend to have nothing to do with the dispute.

Of course, this is pure hypocrisy. The overpaid job-slashers who run Royal Mail were hired to trim down postal services before privatisation. And if privatisation has been postponed for the time being, it is only because, due to the crisis, Mandelson was unable to get a decent offer for the 30% stake in Royal Mail he planned to sell.

The truth is, that the tens of thousands of jobs the government has already begun to cut in postal services are part of its much wider attack against public sector jobs - with a continuous wave of job cuts in central and local government.

And this is even before the budget cuts, announced in Brown's Labour party conference speech, are even spelt out! It is not hard to imagine that if Brown is allowed to get away with it, even more jobs cuts will be included in his austerity plan. Because this is how the government intends to make the working class foot the bill for its largesse to the profit sharks - the cost will come in the form of cuts in jobs and services!

Meanwhile, predictably, the Tories are using the opportunity of the postal strike to woo the anti-working-class prejudices of their well-to-do electorate. But their proposal that strike ballots should require a majority of potential voters is a joke. After all, if such a rule was applied to parliamentary elections, only a handful of MPs, from any party, would be allowed to sit in the Commons to claim their dubious expenses!

But the Tories' bragging about restraining our right to strike even more, should be a warning: it is in the interests of all workers to show to the bosses' politicians that we will respond, in kind, to any attack by them.

The best defence is to go on the offensive

In the context of the postal job cuts and strikes, Royal Mail's plan to recruit 30,000 casuals is an obvious provocation. Their claim that this is not aimed at breaking the strike, but "only" at reducing the backlog of mail, is a laughable excuse.

The Communication Workers' Union's response to this provocation was to ask the High Court for an injunction against Royal Mail. These are the same judges who usually invalidate strike ballots on spurious grounds and the chances of the CWU winning its case are slim. But the chances of Royal Mail abiding by such a ruling are even slimmer. Given the large numbers of casuals already working in postal services, there are numerous loopholes they can use in order to by-pass such a court order.

But why should these casual workers weaken the posties' ability to fight back in the first place? Why should the government and Royal Mail managers be allowed to drive a wedge between casual and permanent workers?

The best defence against any attack is always to go on the offensive. Next, after stopping job cuts, it is in the interest of all postal workers, permanent as well as casual, to ensure that all casuals should get permanent status. And it is in the interest of all strikers to convince casuals that they can rely on their unwavering solidarity in case of victimisation.

This may not be the policy of union leaders who prefer to rely on the courts, rather than on workers' conscious mobilisation. But there is nothing to prevent posties from taking the strike just that one step further, in order to include casuals in their ranks. Just as there is nothing to prevent them from seeking the active support of other workers who, in so many industries, are also threatened by the axe of the job slashers.

Ultimately, the most effective way to counter the offensive of the bosses and their politicians against the working class is a common counter-offensive by all sections of workers. The postal strike could be a first step in this direction.