Postal Workers fight sectarian threats

Militant Labour, September 1993

Postal workers in Belfast have called for protest strike action to any future paramilitary attacks or threats to them This was agreed at a meeting of the postal workers union, the Union of Communication workers (UCW) on Tuesday 7 September.

The UCW general secretary, Alan Johnstone, said he: "recognises that under the circumstances such action may be necessary".

For years postal workers have been targeted by both loyalist and republican paramilitaries. But this situation has got worse over the past month or so.

Firstly there has been a spate of incidents in which our members have had their families held hostage at gun point, while the are forced to carry out robberies, or where they, themselves, have been threatened at gun point to carry proxy bombs by the IRA. Then, to cap it all, the sate, no doubt as an example to others, have charged them with robbery or causing explosions!

This is a conscious decision to trap our members between two fires: face up to the paramilitaries, refuse to do what they say, and presumably face the consequences, or face the wrath of the state forces.

In another worrying development, hi-jacking incidents are becoming more violent. In one incident one driver had petrol poured over him by loyalist thugs, and may have been set alight of he hadn't been rescued by the RUC. The most recent threat involved one of our members in Antrim, singled out by the UVF and told that he will be shot dead if he continues to go into Protestant areas.

It was the Northern Ireland No. 1 Branch of the UCW, to which all these victims belong, which has taken the decision to take protest action.

At that meeting Militant Labour members moved a motion calling for a 24-hour protest strike in response to the next serious incident. We also believe that effected areas should be blacked until such time as any paramilitary threats that are made are withdrawn. A publicity campaign should also be launched.

The union response up to now has been to keep a low profile. This will no longer do, and in fact could lead to one of our members being killed. While our respective managements have generally been sympathetic to the victims of such incidents, although there are calls on them to do more, only we ourselves can take action that can have an effect.

DHSS workers - members of NIPSA - have faced many such threats in the past. On every occasion these have been met with industrial action and a magnificent show of solidarity by Catholic and Protestant workers right across the DHSS. Also on every occasion the paramilitaries have withdrawn their threats.

Surely, if it works for them it can work for us also. Our members look to those NIPSA members as an example, and it's lead that we as a union must follow before it's too late and someone is killed or injured. Take action now to get the paramilitaries and get the RUC to back off!

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