On the Picket Line

Roy Mayall

I’ve just got back from the picket line. There were ten of us at the gate while about the same number had crossed the picket line and gone into work.

That was a bit sad. Some of them weren’t members of the union, so had no choice. Mind you, they had the choice whether to join the union or not, and would take the benefits if we won the dispute. One or two of the younger members were still on their trial contract, so were worried in case it wasn’t renewed. I have a lot of sympathy for them. But the sad thing was seeing union members go in. One of them was overheard to say that he used the union when he needed it, but otherwise he wasn’t interested. I don’t think I can ever respect the man again.

On the other hand, we had a spy on the inside who was popping out every so often bringing us regular updates about what was going on. Apparently they’d opened up the vending machine and were getting free teas and coffees.

At a certain point one of the vans went screeching out. And then, about ten minutes later, it came speeding back in again. It was driven by one of the managers who used to be a postie. You could see from the look on her face that she’d rather be outside with us.

Word came out that the van wasn’t on Royal Mail business at all. It had gone to fetch bacon and sausage baguettes. They were getting bacon and sausage baguettes in there! That made me laugh. I’ve heard of selling your birthright for a mess of pottage, but for a bacon baguette and a lousy cup of coffee?

We had to make do with some home-made cake brought to us by the local branch of the SWP.

Later the press turned up and took photos of us lined up in front of the Royal Mail logo.

The manager came out. ‘Do you have permission to take pictures of Royal Mail property?’ he asked.

The photographer gave him the once over. ‘I don’t need permission,’ she said, and walked off.

I’m looking forward to seeing myself in the paper next week.


  • 23 October 2009 at 2:19pm
    Phil Edwards says:
    They were getting bacon and sausage baguettes in there!

    You never know, it could backfire on them.

    A friend of a friend dated his political education to the day when, young and naive and generally bolshie, he refused to be told to go out on strike and crossed a picket line to get in to work. At 11.00 the management sent round cream cakes for everyone who had come in.

    He never crossed a picket line again.

  • 23 October 2009 at 3:53pm
    Roy Mayall says:
    I dunno Phil, maybe bacon baguettes are more of a temptation than cream cakes?

  • 23 October 2009 at 7:32pm
    Phil Edwards says:
    Er... I think it was the feeling of having been bought he objected to, not the cream cakes as such.

  • 23 October 2009 at 7:48pm
    Roy Mayall says:
    I know Phil. I know.

  • 23 October 2009 at 9:37pm
    Phil Edwards says:
    I thought you might. Never mind.

  • 25 October 2009 at 8:33am
    clashcityrocker says:
    You do not have to be in the union to take part in strike action.Non unionised strikers are protected by law just as unionised strikers are.

  • 25 October 2009 at 6:47pm
    Roy Mayall says:
    Will tell people about this clashcityrocker, but you know how it is: there's a lot of bullying, and those who are not in the union aren't in the union for a reason. One of my mates, who had left the union rejoined when he knew the strike was coming because he couldn't stand being left out. The others never joined in the first place.

  • 17 December 2009 at 11:44pm
    siroisan says:
    Should people on pickets lines be there in part because they do not like what they term managerial bullying, they should be clear that they themselves are bullies by trying to intimidate people into not going to work.

  • 18 December 2009 at 10:50am
    Norrie says:
    Didn't sound much like there was a lot of bullying going on Roy's picketline. Have you ever actually been on strike? Because I can assure you having had the experience once in my life that the pressure from management is a great deal more unpleasant than any pressure generated by strikers standing in the cold at a gate and as far as I know no union member has ever been able to call out the police to break a negotiation deadlock with management.

  • 18 December 2009 at 4:10pm
    Roy Mayall says:
    There's no bullying on a picket line. You cannot stop people going into work. At the worst there's a bit of banter, that's all.

  • 20 December 2009 at 7:29am
    the abbot postie says:
    Thank you for articulating, so accurately, the life of a postie, you should be proud of yourself for what you've done for so many of us old hands.
    I have a little story about one of my colleagues, a part time-32 hour delivery contract-which is combined with her afternoon job of hairdresser.
    I have always got on well with this lady, 2 years ago she was dismissed on the attendance procedure, but thanks to our excellent union rep was reinstated.
    You can imagine my severe disappointment to hear recently that she had worked during the strike,having gone into an office in a nearby village.
    Whatever her financial state, had the union not managed to have got her reinstated she would have lost 3 years postie salary, significantly more than the loss of a few days being out on strike.
    I just find it really sad that people like this are prepared to use the union but rely on us to fight for the rights and benefits they enjoy.
    Am i wrong in feeling betrayed?

  • 20 December 2009 at 6:44pm
    Roy Mayall says:
    No you're not wrong A.P. It's so sad that people don't understand how important it is to have a union. Things are pretty shitty in the Royal Mail at the moment: imagine how much worse it would be without even the minimal protection our union provides.

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