Any teacher who gets into conversation with a postal worker will soon realise how much we have in common: bullying management, impossible workload and Government policy encouraging privatisation. With the postal workers' union, the CWU, having been left with no choice but to call national action, it is in every teacher's interests to make sure they are not defeated.
Of course, the best place to get into a conversation - and to show your support - is on a picket line outside your local delivery office. At Forest Hill, South London, this morning, there was a good turnout of pickets and a determined mood to defend their conditions.
The rep explained how 64 'walks' that had been taken out of the Sydenham and Forest Hill offices had already been cut to 38. That's how, nationally, 60,000 jobs have been cut since 2003. But they were keen to point out that the Royal Mail's argument that this was forced on them by smaller mail volumes just wasn't true. Instead, individual posties are being bullied into taking out bigger and bigger rounds.
Managers who receive bonuses directly based on the 'savings' they can secure are taking an increasingly belligerent attitude to staff. Instead of returning with undelivered mail at the end of their hours, as they are entitled to, workers are often bullied into working unpaid overtime to get the job done. Meanwhile, profiteers are allowed to 'cherry pick' the best parts of the business, allowing big firms to charge 13p a letter - but expect Royal Mail to deliver it!
Of course, all of this will sound strangely familiar to teachers who are also being bullied by managers, league tables and OFSTED into taking on increasingly impossible workloads. The next Government, whoever is elected, will be using the threat of cuts and privatisation to try and make things even worse for teachers too.
That's why, however annoying it might be when a letter (or a voting paper!!) that you've been waiting for doesn't arrive on time, teachers and the NUT need to back the postal workers. A long dispute will put financial pressures on CWU members, so collections for their hardship fund will be important. Many areas, including my own in Lewisham, are setting up local support groups that NUT Associations should support. We also need to answer some of the deliberate distortions and lies being thrown at the postal workers in the press. After all, it might be teachers who need other trade unionists to offer us the same support in the months and years ahead.
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