In October 1969 the Post Office Corporation was created, carved out of an iconic part of the British Civil Service. Profits and budgets were increasingly emphasised at the expense of public service obligations, while Civil Service collective bargaining was side lined. When Ted Heath’s Tory Government was elected in 1970, many right-wing Tory MPs like Christopher Chataway, the new Posts Minister, openly argued for the part-privatisation of the vastly profitable telecommunications part of the Post Office.
Inflation was rampant, and the UPW claim for 15% would mean, at least, a real rather than an apparent pay rise. The Post Office offered 7%, then raised it to 8%. The UPW Executive Council, with Tom Jackson as General Secretary, saw this as an insult, and, under UPW Rules, without a ballot, called an all-out national strike from Wednesday January 20th!
From the Shetland Islands to Penzance, from Anglesey to Yarmouth, Post Office workers struck. The UPW produced a poster to accompany the claim: “Albert Edmondson, postman, works a 43 hour, six-day week, for this he takes home less than £16; Jenny Merritt, a telephonist, works a 41-hour, six-day week. For this she takes home £10.15s. Ian Moyes, a counter clerk, works a 42-hour six-day week and takes home £14 10s, even with five hours overtime.”
Not surprisingly, it was outside the main city telephone exchanges that angry mass picketing took place. Police were often called out, as scabs alleged harassment, and pickets complained of liquids being poured on them from the exchange’s upper floors. Many telephonists came away in tears from claiming their last pre-strike wage, £8, paid in arrears, when managers withheld a five-pound note and told them: “You will get this only if you stay in work now!”
“官方”超纯水理由是一个简单的一个:the union had run out of money and was close to bankruptcy. Of course, the hardship fund was running out, but this explanation cannot, surely, be accepted by historians now, without investigating alternative strategies that had been, and were available to WIN the dispute.
What were they? First and perhaps foremost, the UPW could have asked the other Post Office unions to show real solidarity and strike with them till they won. The UPW could even have called out its own “Ship to Shore” radio operators, such as its members at Portishead Radio Station in Somerset: only a few hundred UPW members nationally, yet crucial to the whole operation of the UK merchant fleet; the UPW could also have appealed to ASTMS members (‘Left-winger’ Clive Jenkins union) who staffed the Telex Service to strike in sympathy. POMSA, the Post Office Management Staff Association, had many members who wanted to walk out with their UPW colleagues, but they were never asked. George Massey, the Communist POMSA Secretary for Bristol, remembered secretly collecting money for the UPW strike fund from about 20% of his supervisor members at the Small Street Head Post Office.
Second, the TUC, and especially the key TUC unions, including those ‘left-wing’ led such as ASTMS, the AEU and the TGWU, need not have failed the UPW. When they failed the UPW, failing with either substantial hardship donations or supportive strike action, they should have been challenged and publicly shamed. After all, even from a ‘reformist’ parliamentary-socialist outlook, it was surely in the interests of their own members to ensure the UPW was not defeated!
英国内政部部长卡尔（Robert Carr）发起的保守党劳资关系法案遭到英国工会联盟（TUC）的反对，起初有些不一致，但在23日的UPW罢工期间，一个英国工会联盟发起了伦敦集会rd2月，召集了100,000多个贸易团体。At that Hyde Park Rally, Tom Jackson was the most popular speaker, while the forked tongue of TUC General Secretary Vic Feather ‘gave his full support.’ When Feather failed to deliver on this TUC promise, and others, Tom Jackson kept silent, and when the strike collapsed, allowed his members’ anger to be concentrated upon himself.
Trains and lorries carried vast numbers of parcels throughout the strike, which, despite donations to the UPW, the NUR and TGWU did little or nothing to prevent. Local Government and Civil Service union members were allowed by their leaders to deliver mail between their departments.
由于债权人施压，UPW高管失去了信心，就像罢工突然被叫停一样。伸出触角；邮局察觉到了UPW的投降，“侠义”同意了一个有约束力的法庭来调查这一争端，于是，在3月3日rd1971, the UPW Executive, led by Jackson, put the union’s bureaucracy and bricks and mortar before its membership, and decided by 27 votes to 4 to call an immediate Branch Ballot for a return to work.
These meetings were held within 5 days, amid some accusations of undue haste: for example, Mount Pleasant meetings were always held on Sundays, yet many members awoke on that Sunday to find their branch meeting had already been called on the Saturday! Moreover, if a Branch of 2,000 members had voted to call the strike off by 1,100 votes to 900, under UPW Rules, all 2,000 votes were cast for ending the strike. The final vote, translated into actual membership figures, was 190,614 to 10,427.
Even without TUC support, could the UPW militants, including the young women telephonists who had become radicalised, have saved the day, and kept the strike going? The answer must be, as a single isolated alternative, ‘No.’ If there had been unofficial UPW movements in the lead up to the strikes of 1964 and 1969, they had not developed any permanent rank and file organisation. Unlike the strikes and disputes of the 1990s, the best UPW Branches had no tradition or practice to combine unofficially to pressurise the UPW Executive. UPW members were exceptionally loyal to their local and nationally-elected leaders, and, consequently, exceptionally bitter when left leaderless.
UPW行政机构中的共产党人充其量是一个忠诚的反对派，据保罗·富特（Paul Foot）说，这四个人，包括他们的领导人、助理秘书长莫里斯·斯泰尔斯（Maurice Styles）都投票赞成投降。我不知道CPGB有任何关于争议的文章，更不用说小册子了，所以现在能够阅读CPGB内部的任何讨论是很有意思的。
Paul Foot wrote a pamphlet on behalf of the International Socialists, John Weal on behalf of the International Marxist Group, but although some good points were made, these suffered from being accounts by outsiders. Only Joe Jacobs, ex-Communist turned anarcho-syndicalist, and a Cable Street veteran, who also wrote a critical account of 1971, was a UPW member, but his influence must have been minimal.
亨利·哈特曼爵士询问是达到罢工的叶片，掩盖了投降。Despite Tom Jackson’s eloquence, and the impressive personal testimony of UPW members from the different grades, the Inquiry ordered a binding settlement of 9%, the acceleration of mechanisation into Post Offices, productivity schemes to pay for the extra 1%, and the new idea of extra money for postmen in areas where recruitment had been difficult.
Yet the basic union organisation, especially in the sorting and delivery offices, remained solid. The Tories, until the 1980s, were unable to remove the closed shop in this Royal Mail section of the Post Office. By 1982, even in Clevedon, successful unofficial strikes had taken place. Later in the 1980’s there were major disputes in cities like Leeds and Liverpool. In 1987 there was a national dispute for a shorter working week.
With mail volumes showing a massive increase in the late 1980s/early 1990s, the stage was set for a remarkable trade union renaissance: the massive and prolonged militancy of Royal Mail workers, which, for the last 30 years, has been, without doubt, the best organised section of the British working-class.
As a UCW/CWU Bridgwater Delivery Office Rep, and Bristol Branch Officer, I am proud to have played my own small part in this: at Bridgwater Delivery Office between 1993 and December 2016, when I retired, we held 20-odd strike ballots, walked out unofficially ten times, held eight official strikes, all without a single significant defeat. That total would be significantly increased if, during those years, you took the Bristol Branch Royal Mail offices as a whole. Even during Covid, Bridgwater Delivery Office Royal Mail CWU members have held three successful wildcat strikes!
戴夫Chapple.was a Somerset Post Office/Royal Mail delivery postman for 38 years, and is, in retirement, Secretary of Bridgwater and District TUC. Dave is also the author of “Grasshopper, Stonkers and Straight Eights: George Massey and Bristol Post Office Workers, 1930 to 1976”, “Henry Suss and the Jewish Working-Class of Manchester and Salford”, “Idris and Phyllis Rose, Trowbridge Communist Councillors” (in “Wiltshire Industrial History, Working-Class Episodes”)and “Class Conflict in a Somerset Town-Bridgwater 1924 to 1927”, second-hand copies of which are still available on line.
He can be contacted at