Remember the trouble at the Royal Mail before Christmas? When postal workers were protecting their jobs and your service. We have a story from a Communication Union Worker from West Park Delivery Office, Plymouth, about the shenanigans that can go on during a dispute, from the horse’s mouth…
When heading into work on a Saturday morning in October I could never of imagined the events that were about to unfold in my delivery office – West Park, Plymouth.
We were due to take our third day of local strike action on the following Monday so relations with management were tense, but on the upside, togetherness among the workforce was very strong.
Our union rep Alastair Sinclair had earlier in the week been called to a dismissal interview based on his attendance. Alastair had taken eight days sick in nine years. Given the low level of this sickness and the fact that many of us (including me) had far worse records we were confident that he would also be given a second chance.
After about 10 minutes on my sorting frame on that Saturday morning the buzz came around that Royal Mail had sacked our rep. At first there was a feeling of complete disbelief. Because of the fact that Alastair had been given a period of notice by the company our rep stood in the middle of the office sorting while knowing that he had been sacked.
In perhaps the most unified moment I have seen in my 29 years in Royal Mail almost as one the whole office marched out of the door and onto the gate. We were out because Royal Mail had taken a cheap shot at our rep, we were out because we knew Alastair could have sold us out, called off our local strike and protected himself, but he chose to put us first. We were out defending our friend and we were out because we knew if Royal Mail were able to sack our rep with no comeback then none of us were safe.
The acting DOM came to the picket line and asked us why we were out and was told in no uncertain terms ‘We are out in support of our rep’.
Soon after, Branch reps arrived as did Chris Webb our Divisional Rep. Chris got us all together and took our terms of the return to work and said that he was waiting for a senior manager to arrive before negotiations started.
In a twist of fate the manager sent by Royal Mail was the one who had dismissed Alastair – safe to say we gave him a polite welcome!
After about two hours of negotiating we were presented a return to work proposal by Chris Webb. Our rep’s appeal was to be held within seven days and the union had secured a national rep to assist Alastair. Chris then delivered a speech that even when I look back now makes the hairs on my neck stand up. There and then we gave our branch a mandate for more strike action and we agreed that the local action would remain in place on Monday and as much as it was needed going forward.
The month or so between the appeal and the result seemed like an age. With Christmas fast approaching we wanted a result. Without anyone actually saying it we all knew that another walkout was on the cards if Alastair was not given his decision before Christmas.
The office held several more meetings with the branch keeping us updated and upbeat. We sent a petition to Adam Crozier and the regional manager telling them more strike action would take place if justice wasn’t done and everyday we maintained contact with Ali to keep his spirits up.
We also took more local and national strike action in between this time making management aware that as well as supporting the our national union we were out on the street for Alastair.
Coming into the last week before Christmas was the most intense that I have ever known. The whole office was looking out for the special delivery to Ali (so we’d know his decision was on the way).
Then the time finally came. I was sat at home on the December 23 and I got the following text from a colleague: ‘justice is done Ali Sinclair is back’. I jumped out of my chair and almost gave my partner a heart attack.
The next day the atmosphere in the office was electric. Management were very low profile, with their heads down while banter, cheering and chanting took place all morning. I will go as far as to say it made our Christmas.
In between Christmas and New Year, Alastair was returned to work and we formed a guard of honour and clapped him back into work.
Despite all their millions and against all the odds, the reps had kept their promise and got our leader back.
I would like to thank Tony Bouch, Doug Lillicrap and in particular Chris Webb for their support and leadership. We know that hours and hours of work went on behind the scenes and we are proud to be represented by these guys.
If your office or workplace ever faces the same then you must stand and fight. I am proud to think that I played a tiny part in a piece of history for our office.
West Park DO will never be the same. Galvanised by victory and inspired by the fact that we took them on and won.
Never, ever has going to work felt so damned good.
West Park Delivery Office
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