What are the reasons for you strike action?

Like most people in this country, because I need more money to live cos everything is fucking expensive. Another reason, though, is that the work is getting harder and harder. I started working at Royal Mail three and half years ago, since then the workload is always increasing: walks are getting longer, and the managers who allocate us these works haven’t even delivered to these postcodes. Recently some newer managers have been hired who have never even been posties. Our walks have been revised to be longer because apparently we’ve been finishing too early, but in reality this is because many posties work through their breaks or come in earlier so they can finish earlier. They shouldn’t do this but the reality is lots of them have commitments, i.e as carers or to try and beat rush hour traffic (my office is in London, but many colleagues of mine live in Surrey, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire). The managers don’t say a thing when staff do this, but are more than happy to enforce extra work on them despite knowing their respective situations. The big issue with these revisions is that they seem to be based on the workload we have in the summer season, which is a lot less. Come winter I don’t know how we’ll cope when the workload doubles, if people are going an hour or two over now, that could be 3-4 in winter. Sure overtime is great, but so is our physical well-being, and we need sleep and rest for this job.

Investment in us, with regards to equipment, is dire. There aren’t enough bags and trolleys, so more often than not I find myself having to load my trolleys (if I can find one!) with more items than they’re capable of delivering. Because of the sheer volume of work, we’re forced to cut corners around item security to get stuff delivered, such as storing drop bags for walking-only posties in unsecure locations or literally running to get stuff delivered. Vans are insufficient, and more often than not, they are too small if you’re having to share a van with another colleague. We have a lot of crappy hire vans that we use at our office, and I can imagine they cost a lot to rent.

Royal Mail wants us to come in on Sundays as part of their ‘agreement’ for a 3.5 percent pay rise, but this is unacceptable. For so many of our colleagues Sunday is important:it’s the only day they’re guaranteed to spend time with their families,as many of us work Saturdays; it’s the day they go to church; it’s the day to go to the football. Did the lord not say to respect the Sabbath day?

In general, more than anything, I want better conditions. I love this job. I love walking, the fresh air, and driving my van with the radio on full volume - but it’s taking its physical toll on me. I’ve developed various physical injuries because of this job, including chronic shoulder pain from carrying a bag full of mail everyday, early osteoarthritis in my knees (I’m 29!) and sleeping problems from the stress and waking up at 5am every morning. At this rate I’m not sure if I can keep doing this.

How would you describe your strike tactics?

To be honest, from how things seem at our office, everything is pretty centralised around the union with regards to organising actions. I remember during the ballot we were getting shit loads of texts and emails to remind us to vote, but now the strike is on, not a thing. Not even info about pickets at my own office. For the most part I try to keep myself out of wider national Union activity and focus more on stuff in my office, as I’m not comfortable with the level of gatekeeping by older union officials and bureaucrats.

What comes next? What avenues are there for escalation?

I’m not sure, I think if this strike extends into the winter period, ordinary people will really start to feel the impact as it’s the busiest period. So far we have only announced 4 days of action, and I don’t think that’s enough. The offices depend on staff doing over-time work, so if the union was to try and get members to possibly do a ‘work to your time’ initiative, that could really disrupt Royal Mail. Doing this in tandem with strike action could be very effective.

How does this strike relate to struggle more widely?

The Tories have always tried and in many cases succeeded in cracking down on organised labour. Eventually though, there will come a breaking point, where people just won’t care. If you’re going to starve whilst being employed versus whilst being unemployed, what does it matter? If things carry on as they are, and the wealth disparity increases, I can envision a lot more unofficial strike action, like that at Amazon this year. The issue is how do the Unions deal with this? Since they can’t exactly come out in support of such actions (due to risk of being sued). Eventually they’ll have to embrace the fact they will be forced to turn to illegal measures if they need to stand up for their members.

If you are a worker who has recently been on strike or will be taking part in one soon, you can submit a strike report here.


Anonymous postal worker

Reports from postal workers on their organising and strike actions