14 October 2013
At 11pm on 26 September CWU members from East Oxford Delivery Office started striking. Our demands included dignity and respect in the workplace and the reinstatement of two members who had been recently dismissed.
Throughout the night and into the morning the picket line was consistently attended by large numbers of pickets. Strike chilli was served throughout, ensuring that a high level of morale and full bellies continued throughout night and day.
Solidarity was brought to the picket line by representatives of Unison, NUT, UCU and others. The PCS brought not only solidarity, but also doughnuts which proved very popular. Royal Mail drivers from Swindon turned round at the picket line and returned to their Mail Centres in an act of solidarity refusing to cross the picket line. The picket line remained upbeat throughout with unequivocal determination.
In spite of a belief by Royal Mail bosses that the members would not vote for strikes, the members returned a three to one yes vote. On the day of the strike this democratic decision was honoured by all but one member. East Oxford D.O. proved to the surprise of Royal Mail to be united in their anger and their collective response.
Royal Mail responded to the strike by filling the Delivery Office with over 150 managers to do the work of postal workers. What was evident on the day was that it takes two mangers to do part of a single delivery poorly. One manager to hold the letter and another to hold the map! Members found it amusing when it took two or three mangers to push a High Capacity trolley when usually this would be done by one post worker.
The reason for the strike was that the members had been incensed by the dismissal of two colleagues with clean work records and a combined service of over fifty years. In one case the member had admitted he had done wrong by not delivering door to door items (junk mail to the public) to eight houses. It was believed by the members that he should not have been dismissed for this and should have received leniency. Instead he received the ultimate punishment of dismissal based on a zero tolerance policy that does not exist.
The other member, who has always claimed his innocence, was dismissed on evidence that has been described as hardly conclusive and open to interpretation. It has also proved impossible to say how, even if he was guilty, this member benefited from the actions. The members in East Oxford are unanimous in the belief that the actions he is accused of are totally against his character and believe him to be totally innocent. For those in East Oxford D.O. the heavy handed punishment has meant a climate of fear and a feeling that they are no longer safe from spurious accusations. They have lost all faith in discipline process which would ultimately always end in the dismissal of a post worker for conduct issues regardless of any truth in the accusation.
In response to the sackings the members made the following demands:-
- An assurance that there is no zero tolerance operating in East Oxford Delivery Office.
- If the member who has an Employment Tribunal wins that case he will return to work on the same terms and conditions that he left.
- That a joint review of the two cases be done by both Royal Mail and CWU.
After a further meeting since the strike it is believed that Royal Mail will not give way on the third demand whilst a national dispute is running. As a response to this the members have demanded that the first two points be met in writing and signed by senior management or there would be further strike action on 31 October and the 1 November.
We wait patiently for Royal Mail’s response!