'I was on the Royal Mail picket line hours after chemotherapy'

Rab Bain, 57, has worked for Royal Mail for 22 years and said he was determined to support his striking workmates.

Royal Mail worker with terminal cancer drove himself to picket line in support of striking workers after round of chemotherapy CWU

A former mail worker with terminal cancer drove himself to support striking workmates on a morning picket line hours after undergoing a round of chemotherapy.

Rab Bain, who has worked for Royal Mail for 22 years, says he will “keep picketing as long as [he is] able to” as he told striking colleagues with the Communication Workers Union (CWU) to “keep sticking together and don’t give in”.

The 57-year-old travelled to the Edinburgh picket line at 6am on Saturday, October 1, to surprise workmates after going through chemotherapy hospital treatment the night before.

Mr Bain didn’t even tell his wife he had gone, despite being unsure if he would be fit enough to attend.

He said: “I’d had palliative chemotherapy at hospital the day before and that evening I was really tired – but I thought if I got an early night, I’d get myself up in time to see the guys on the line nice and early.

“When I got there it was so great to see them all – lots of hugs and cheers! I stayed about an hour and then I gradually started feeling really cold and quite tired, so I drove home again. And when I got back indoors, my wife Karen was still asleep.

Rab Bain (Credit: CWU)

“I hadn’t told her I was going beforehand because I wasn’t sure until I actually went whether I’d feel able to – but when I told her I’d been to the picket, she was pleased for me and how it had really cheered me up to see everyone. They’re such a great bunch over there.”

Having served as a unit rep for over a decade, Mr Bain shared the anger of his workmates at the Edinburgh West Delivery Office who are taking part in the strike action in an ongoing dispute over pay and working conditions.

The CWU members at Royal Mail walked out on September 30 and October 1 last week.

They are due to strike again on October 13, 20 and 25 with another date on November 28 also announced.

Mr Bain said: “I’m a great believer in the union, massively, and I feel for the guys when I see what the company’s trying to do to them. I wanted to show my face on the picket line.

“Saturday was the first time I was able to get there and it was so nice to go down and support them. I’m in the group photo there – at the back with a hood and glasses. It was a strange feeling, a little bit surreal actually, but really nice.

“I want to go again. I’m going to try every time I can as long as I’m able to and as long as I’m not in hospital.

“What I’d say to our guys, all our Royal Mail members – and Post Office and our members in BT as well – is please stick together, keep sticking together, keep fighting, don’t give in.

“I know it’s hard and it’s going to be hard, but to give in now will cripple us and those people will destroy the company.”

Mr Bain was first diagnosed with bowel cancer three years ago after being taken to hospital with a burst appendix.

He has since had to undergo a number of treatments, operations and surgeries.

In September and October 2021 he had surgery to remove his gall bladder and 50% of his liver.

However, on December 22 last year doctors told him the cancer had spread to his bones, back and lungs and he was given six months to a year to live.

Mr Bain said the terrible news devastated his wife but he found it hard to tell others.

He said: “It’s hard to describe. Whether I completely took it in or not when the doctor told me, I’m not sure. It gradually dawned on me. I didn’t go and tell people. I didn’t tell anyone directly. As if it somehow wasn’t real if I didn’t mention it.”

He has attended hospital for regular palliative care including chemotherapy and other treatments since.

The CWU secretary for the Scotland No2 Branch said: “Rab’s an incredibly brave man. It’s wonderful that he drove himself to the picket line so early in the morning in these circumstances to support his workmates. He says about how it cheered him up, well it was a massive morale boost to our guys on the picket line as well – inspirational.

“Make no mistake, we will all keep on fighting and we hope he’ll be able to come and see us on the picket line again.”

Commenting on the need for industrial action, Dave Ward, the CWU general secretary, said: “This is a significant announcement, but it is one which matches the level of anger our members feel at the way Royal Mail Group has treated them.

“These are the same people that have kept the country connected and returned Royal Mail Group to record profit.

“Postal workers across the UK now face the fight of their lives to save their jobs and the service they provide to every household and business in the UK.

“We call on everyone to stand with their local postal worker.”

A Royal Mail spokesperson said: “Royal Mail is losing £1m a day and must change faster in response to changing customer demands.

“We operate in a competitive market, and our customers have choices.

“Further strikes and resistance to transformation by CWU will only make our financial position worse, and threatens the long-term job security of our postmen and women.”

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