Talks between the Communication Workers Union and Royal Mail continue at Trades Union Council (TUC) headquarters in central London, chaired by TUC general secretary Brendan Barber. Both the union and Royal Mail have agreed not to speak publicly about the detail of the discussions so far. Negotiations will resume at the same venue this morning. 

The General Secretary of the CWU Billy Hayes explains why postal workers are taking the Royal Mail to the High Court this week over the company’s use of agency workers. See this Guardian podcast.

A CWU spokesperson said: “We’re disappointed  that Royal Mail appears to be more interested in sidelining the views and concerns of its staff rather than reaching an agreement to bring this dispute to an end…Instead of spending vast sums of money on untrained temporary workers we urge the Royal Mail to engage with talks to reach an agreement to get the permanent staff back to work…

  …Royal Mail is planning for failure here instead of addressing the concerns of its staff. Postal workers deserve more than this dismissive attitude…CWU remains available for talks to avoid a strike.”

The two national strikes on Friday 6th November and Monday 9th November – involving all 121,000 members in Royal Mail letters – are set to go ahead as planned.

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The following press release was issued by the National Union of Journalists today and is reprinted here in full:  

 Tough and urgent action is needed in response to violence, intimidation and death threats targeting journalists covering far right demonstrations.

 The call by NUJ General Secretary Jeremy Dear comes in the wake of specific email threats against photojournalist and investigative reporter Marc Vallée, and video journalist Jason N. Parkinson.

 The emails follow verbal threats and intimidation aimed at photographers covering a march by the English Defence League in Leeds at the weekend and other EDL protests this year.

 Professional journalists covering the events have filed reports with the NUJ detailing physical violence, including one being punched in the head, verbal threats, and attempts to seize cameras and smash equipment. The union is to file complaints to the police.

 Jeremy Dear said: “In a week when yet more photographers have been targeted by right-wing hate website Redwatch, when out on the streets professional photographers are subjected to violence and intimidation by right-wing thugs, there must be tough and urgent action in response to these latest death threats.

 “These are not idle threats made by kids – these are direct, named threats made by individuals who can be traced – in one case an individual already convicted of stabbing someone. They are designed to silence the media and stop photographers showing the true nature of the protests and protestors. The police must act now before a journalist is killed or seriously injured”.

 Jason N. Parkinson said: “It is ironic the English Defence League claim they are protesting ‘peacefully’ against Muslim extremism. Then late Saturday night, after returning from covering the Leeds protest, I receive a threatening email from one of their Welsh and English division organisers entitled ‘Fatwa’.

 “This is exactly the behaviour and tactics of extremism the EDL claim they are against. Someone should remind the EDL that the fundamental root of all democratic society, including in the UK, is press freedom. Intimidation, violence, Fatwas and death threats are not.”

 Marc Vallée said: “I find it intriguing that only four weeks after attending a BNP press conference – at London’s City Hall – I’m targeted by Redwatch in this way. We should be free to go about our lawful and necessary work without such intimidation. I’m determined that when journalists are targeted in this way the only effective response is a collective one as well as journalistic one.” 

See also:

http://jasonnparkinson.blogspot.com/2009/11/death-threats-for-journalists-covering.html

Postal worker/blogger Roy Mayall (pseudonym) holds forth on ‘modernisation’ in ‘The Guardian’ (see also my posts: “Is modernisation the real issue?” and “Postal Union heads for High Court”.

Roy says: “The reason this strike is unique is that it has nothing to do with pay. It is about the future of the Royal Mail itself – us postal workers are being portrayed as like dinosaurs clinging to our outdated and outmoded working practices. What the Royal Mail needs is a good dose of modernisation, we are told…

…I guess it depends on what you mean by “modernisation”. At times, the so-called “modernisation programme” is a farce. I know of someone working in a delivery office in Cambridgeshire who was in tears recently. Apparently he had been given 100 extra calls to make on his daily round but couldn’t fit them into his shift. His manager told him he was going to receive “refresher training”. When he asked what this involved, the manager replied: “How to walk faster…”

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From a mailing received today;

“Mohammad Abu Eid, from the occupied West Bank, was 14 years old when he was detained by the Israeli forces in February 2008 and accused of throwing stones at the Wall. Mohammad was beaten, interrogated in the absence of a lawyer and family member, deceived into signing a confession, prosecuted in a military court and sentenced to four months imprisonment inside Israel. Whilst in prison, he received no education and no family visits”.

Mohammed, in the company of his mother, Somaya, will share their experiences with the audience to foster a better understanding of the situation facing Palestinian children. They will be joined by Gerard Horton, from Defence for Children International – Palestine, a lawyer working in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and Abdelfattah Abusrour, President of Palestinian Theatre League; an at each meeting there will be additional testimony from our esteemed UK guests who have extensive knowledge of the region and the shocking situation facing vulnerable children.

 
All public meetings start at 7pm and finish at 9pm
Monday 2 November, Liverpool

Quaker Meeting House, School Lane, Liverpool L1 3BT
Chair: Betty Hunter
Guest: Dr. Derek Summerfield

Tuesday 3 November, London

Mander Hall, Hamilton House, Mabledon Place, London WC1H 9BD
Chair: Sir Geoffrey Bindman
Guests: Baroness Helena Kennedy and Christine Blower

Wednesday 4 November, Sheffield

Quaker Meeting House, 10 St James Street, Sheffield S1 2EW
Chair: Hugh Lanning
Guest: Bruce Kent and Musheir El-Farra

Thursday 5 November, Oxford

Oxford Town Hall, St Aldate’s, Oxford, OX1 1BX
Chair: Victoria Brittain
Guests: Danny Friedman and Karma Nabulsi

Royal Mail – er.. I mean Roy Mayall – (a pseudonym) has been a delivery postal worker for five years. He(she?) writes for the London Review Blog – revealing some of the realities behind current working conditions and politics (and why they need strong trade union protection in the workplace). Here is some of what Roy has to say about Peter Mandelson’s comment on TV in May: ‘Figures are down’:

It’s the joke at the delivery office. ‘Figures are down’, we say, and laugh as we pile the fifth or sixth bag of mail onto the scales and write down the weight in the log-book. It’s our daily exercise in fiction writing…we hear that sentence almost every day at work when management are trying to implement some new initiative which involves postal workers like me working longer hours for no extra pay, carrying more weight, having more duties

Fellow postal worker Pat Stamp comments on the blog:

“Like Roy Mayall…I am a postman and concerned at the absence in the media of any account of how mail delivery is organised and what Royal Mail’s modernisation programme entails. The programme was introduced because the popularity of email and texting has caused a drop in mail volume. Royal Mail’s first step was to reduce the number of ‘walks’. It did this by cutting some walks in each area and making the remaining walks longer. A postman who normally delivered mail to six streets, say, now found himself delivering to eight or nine. During the summer months, when mail volumes were low, he could perhaps, just cope with this. But as autumn begins and the Christmas catalogues start to come out, every week and sometimes every day can be heavy. In the run-up to last Christmas, there were postman who only finished their walks at 7 or 8.p.m., sometimes two or three times a week. In one depot alone, around 15 postman phonen in sick. This Christmas, with the even longer walks, it could be worse. Royal Mail is a strong promoter of general health and safety, but as the walks lengthen and the loads increase, many of us feel that our own health and safety isn’t being taken into consideration…”

To find out more about day-to-day working conditions of delivery staff read Roy’s blog – see this London Review: Roy Mayall’s diary:

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The Guardian reports today – The Communication Workers Union (postal) is due to take the Royal Mail to the High Court this week. The Royal Mail is allegedly illegally employing agency staff to break the strike.

See this Guardian report: Hiring of temporary workers is illegal says union.

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