Posties like me are working ourselves to death. Enough is enough
OPINION: I’ve been a Royal Mail worker for 30 years. Here’s why I’m going on strike
On National Postal Workers Day 2022, a Royal Mail worker of more than 30 years’ service reflects on what 115,000 of his striking colleagues are fighting for – fair conditions, decent pay, dignity in the workplace and community spirit.
I’ve worked for the Royal Mail for more than three decades, and I can remember thousands of special moments.
You’re working with a special type of person, I’ve come to believe. My colleagues are people willing to go the extra mile. They’re funny and kind, thoughtful and creative. They know that the role they play – and the bond they have with the communities they serve – is unique. I couldn’t count the number of charity runs, fundraising concerts and special events that have been organised by my colleagues.
I remember the wartime stories the older boys could tell when I first started; more recently, I can remember the sacrifices we all made during the pandemic, when many of us died keeping the country connected.
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Such proud moments can be reeled off by heart, but so can our problems. During festive periods, we are under serious pressure – but other types of stress are creating an incoming catastrophe. Under-recruitment has meant older workers do more while the next generation isn’t coming through to replenish the ranks, at least not where it matters.
Anecdotally, it’s not uncommon to hear of posties having heart attacks, sometimes fatal, on the job – the price of cutting corners. Ask any postal worker and they can tell you stories about ridiculously outdated toilet facilities, broken doors and seatbelts on delivery vans, and serious complaints getting ignored by managers who seem to think they know better.
Bosses and shareholders come first
The money is there to change all this, but it’s not going where it’s needed. In the last year, Royal Mail made £758m in profit and was able to hand out £400m to shareholders. Royal Mail CEO Simon Thompson even gave himself an advance bonus of more than £140,000. But when it came to the workers who created that profit – and during a historic cost-of-living crisis – Royal Mail’s leadership pleaded poverty then offered us a pay rise of just 2%.
Through the Communication Workers Union (CWU), we voted by nearly 100% on nearly 80% turnout, twice, to strike. Instead of recognising the anger we almost unanimously felt, bosses announced they would withdraw from all existing legal agreements with the union and make moves that many fear could mean the derecognition of the union.
The CWU was even told by members that managers were threatening to dock pay if strikers called in sick. Bosses have been trying to humiliate us online, and have offered bonuses worth up to £30,000 to managers overseeing job cuts. After one strike day, the company said it was going to cut 10,000 jobs unless we packed it in.
Postal workers believe that, for Royal Mail bosses, the wrecking of your Christmas and my wellbeing is a worthwhile sacrifice to turn the company into a bog-standard, Uber-style delivery courier. There, old-fashioned things such as good conditions, decent pay and self-respect on the job can be easily binned, and casualised workers can work harder for less.
This country deserves better, as does its posties
These bosses aren’t people with roots in the industry, and they aren’t sympathetic to the connection it has to our communities: there’s no profit to be made in knocking on your nana’s door when it’s icy, to check on her.
I do my job because I love it. There are things that money can’t buy – like the laughs we gave kids and elderly people with the (frankly bizarre) costumes we tried on during the dark days of the pandemic – and knowing that you serve a wider community and play a useful role in people’s lives.
This is also why we’re on strike. In this country, a tiny number of well-connected people have been making astonishing wealth out of royally stuffing the rest of us for far too long. It feels like everything just gets worse day by day: our bills are sky high, our trains are wrecked, our rivers are filled with sewage, and rent for many is now becoming an existential crisis – and all because a tiny number of people have never had it better.
I, and 115,000 of my colleagues, don’t want to add to these problems by accepting the destruction of one of our few reliable national institutions. This country deserves better, as does its posties. I hope you can back us in our dispute this Christmas.
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