Grim resolve of the Royal Mail strikers in Mallusk
Huddled beneath a cluster of umbrellas, scores of postal workers remained defiant in their stand against Royal Mail yesterday outside its premises in Mallusk.
Despite the relentless rain the strikers kept up morale by blowing whistles, bantering and warming their hands over a brazier.
“Whether it be rain, hail or shine, we’ll be here,” one worker told the Belfast Telegraph. And there they had been since 4am yesterday, the numbers waxing and waning as strikers arrived and left throughout the day matching the shift patterns they would have been working.
Yesterday was the first of two 24-hour strikes that will take place this week. It follows two days of strikes last week.
Up to 100 delivery drivers and 700 mail processors could potentially have taken part in the action, although some workers were quietly crossing the picket line.
It is understood they entered and left the building covering their faces, some even wearing paper bags over their heads to disguise their identities.
“Scabs have been driving out with their faces covered, beeping the horn and laughing at us,” another striker said.
“Royal Mail have been encouraging them and making it as easy as possible to break the strike by organising car pools from secret locations.”
The strikers alleged workers had been “smuggled” past them in the back of vans and hidden in the boots of cars.
A promise made earlier in the day by the head of Royal Mail in Northern Ireland Michael Kennedy of “no more changes between now and Christmas” and hopes of a deal in January drew scorn from the picket line.
“Of course there will not be changes before Christmas,” secretary of the Belfast branch of the Communication Workers Union Bobby Weatherall said.
“This is our busiest time of the year so there is never any change made at this time of year. That is just a nonsense from Royal Mail.”
Meanwhile, inside the building, managers were believed to be working on the floor of the sorting room yesterday to keep the service going despite advice from their own union Unite.
“Unite told them not to do any work outside their normal duties but they have been working overtime doing our work,” said Mr Weatherall.
“They don’t seem to realise it is their jobs that could be on the line too.”
The workers were keen to explain that a strike action was the very last resort and that they themselves were suffering by taking the action.
“We lose our days’ wages by doing this,” one delivery driver who did not wish to be named said.
A Royal Mail spokesman yesterday said “our door is still open for talks”.
With both doors declared open, talks were expected to resume last night.