London postal workers take strike action over coronavirus

17th March 2020 / United Kingdom
London postal workers take strike action over coronavirus

Postal workers in several depots across south west London and other parts of the capital have mounted a de facto wildcat strike/work to rule over concerns regarding coronavirus safety. They did so in the face of the refusal of the Communication Workers Union (CWU) to mount any protest against Royal Mail management.

Workers have accused Royal Mail management of inaction over concerns that they are being exposed unnecessarily to the virus. As one worker told the WSWS, it seems to be the policy of Royal Mail to “keep quiet and hope it goes away.”

Managers are telling staff that they will not even be issued with hand sanitizer or alcohol wipes. Other managers have been trying to order sanitizers from Amazon to no avail.

Postal workers are asking why if a member of staff phones in sick with suspected but not clinically verified coronavirus, aren’t the rest of the office being informed of the suspected case. Symptomatic staff are being told to stay at home and to self-isolate without being tested.

Postal workers are demanding action from Royal Mail to protect not only their work colleagues but family members as well. However, all Royal Mail is interested in is keeping costs down. Management has said they will only clean an office if there has been a clinically-verified case of coronavirus.

Like all public services, postal workers come into daily contact with the members of the public. Handheld computers that the public sign to receive their mail are a possible source of spreading the virus both ways. Customer services points where people collect their mail are another source of potential contamination. One South West office has closed its customer service counter until further notice. Another office has suspended deliveries and collection of mail from post offices and pillar boxes.

The Royal Mail walkouts in south London come after the Communications Worker Union (CWU) identified over 30 local disputes at depots and sorting offices nationwide. The CWU will soon announce the result of a nationwide industrial action ballot of 110,000 workers, which is set to record a large majority in favour of strikes.


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