One of the tasks you have to attend to (desultorily) when you move house is changing one’s address with banks, utility companies and now the DVLA. Last night I had just finished addressing envelopes for both licence and car registration, when I heard on the radio that the postal workers’ strike would begin tomorrow viz today by now. I laid both items of potential post to one side and had a think.
My relationship with the profession of postal worker is a complicated one. My father was a postman, delivered letters, served from a counter, worked for the GPO for years before it was broken up for scrap into pieces including the still awful BT. Dad was happy enough until sideways promotion put him not merely in the TVLEO (which he treated like any other job, and was professional to a fault, even with dogs set upon him) but also under a mediocre and jealous bos, and the metaphorical glass ceiling that such a manager constituted.
The first place K. and I lived together was opposite the (now defunct) Headington sorting office. Never have we had such inconsiderate neighbours: dropping metal cages, hurling them about, making a hell of a racket in the small hours of the morning that must have kept dozens if not hundreds of nearby residents awake. They struck quite a lot in that year of our rental: picket lines would assemble from around 3.30am until 6ish, talk outside our bedroom window, then disappear before anyone sympathetic to their plight might actually notice they were string.
A more pointless, friend-losing strike I’ve never heard of. When asked by the Oxford Gannett Newsquest Mail what we thought about the strike, we were quoted as saying that, good socialists as we were, we just wished they’d shut the fuck up, die on the spot if necessary, and let us have a night of unbroken sleep.
Fast-forward six years, and the Royal Mail has generally got shittier. First-class post means three days if you’re lucky, and the only sign of a strike is when Royal-Mail-own junk mail ceases for a day or two. Although even that could just mean that your round was ignored, or dumped in a hedge. My last-but-one credit card bill never arrived; nor did a recent delivery of tool bits. The Royal Mail could have been positioned as the go-to guys for secure document solutions—both online and in the real world—by this stage, but have preferred to squash innovation, slash post offices and useful services, and shut down projects like ErnestMarples.com. Postal services in the UK are a terrible fucking joke, and you’d be a fool to trust them for Christmas cards, let alone… my driving licence….
And yet. And yet. Most of the worst aspects of the Royal Mail are imposed by management, by corporate cocksuckers like Adam “failure” Crozier. Junk mail delivery, anti-innovative guarding of gradually less worthwhile intellectual property at the expence of society as a whole, all the nasty, lying, ignorant, venal practices that Roy Mayall discussed in the LRB a few weeks ago… they aren’t the postal workers. The postal workers ultimately aren’t telling fibs like Royal Mail management are doing. They’re in the right.
Maybe they’re pursuing an ultimately hopeless campaign. As K. has pointed out national strikes worked well in the 1970s, but organized labour unions can and should be a lot cannier these days: unfortunately the CWU doesn’t really have the top brass to think in a 21st century way. Nonetheless, like the engineers in the bowels of a sinking ship, the captains of which having trousered the silver as rewards for turning most of the ship into jetsam before clearing off on a jet-powered lifeboat, they deserve our support and sympathy. So tentatively, grumblingly, grudgingly: I support our postal workers, because if you’re not on the side of the angels, whose side are you on?
As long as they protest quietly. With these rubbish curtains I don’t get much kip as it is.