By Mike McCourt
Mail deliveries have been suspended in the Derry area over the next few days due to lack of staffing at the Royal Mail sorting office. Over half of the workforce have been forced to self-isolate due to possible Covid-19 infections, with 24 of the 120 staff testing positive.
This comes after a successful de facto strike last Monday, in which workers refused to enter the sorting office and forced the bosses to belatedly carry out a deep clean. However, this was too little, too late on the part of management.
Royal Mail was privatised by the Tories in 2013. Its bosses have consistently put profits ahead of health and safety of workers and the public during this crisis. However, the action taken last week shows not only that staff know how to run their workplace better and safer than the bosses, but that when workers organise themselves, we can achieve victories.
The Communication Workers’ Union should use this example to build a broad fightback across Royal Mail in defence of health and safety, but also to reverse attacks on conditions, for better pay, and for the renationalisation of the company under democratic workers’ control. Given that even the Tories have been forced to renationalise parts of the rail system in Britain, for example, this demand can no longer be dismissed as fanciful.
Workers generally should follow the example of the Royal Mail staff in Derry. We have a legal right to refuse to work in unsafe conditions, without penalisation. However, in order to make that right a reality, we need the power of collective organisation. All workers should join a trade union and organise with their colleagues to defend health and safety, jobs, pay and conditions during this crisis and beyond.