Labour ministers unleashed a further assault on public sector workers last week when they allowed post office bosses to unveil two fundamental attacks on postal workers.
Royal Mail wants to abolish the final salary pension scheme for new entrants and to bring in a “phantom share” scheme where workers could get extra money – so long as they accept mass job losses, increased use of part time workers, fewer rights at work and a weaker trade union.
The proposals could see industrial action by the CWU postal workers’ union and will accelerate calls for the union to reconsider its relationship with the Labour Party.
Bob Cullen, the CWU area processing rep at Oxford mail centre, told Socialist Worker, “There’s a great deal of shock over these announcements.
“There’s supposed to be consultation for six months over the pension scheme, but I don’t see the basic principles changing without a big fight.
“The only ideas Royal Mail want to explore are those about present staff paying more or working longer to get their pension. The scheme we have now is not some ‘gold plated’ perk as is often claimed.
“One of our union reps in Oxford, who has been in the business for 40 years is now 66 years old, but he’s still doing 20 hours a week because he can’t survive on the state pension plus his Royal Mail pension.
“Many people can’t afford to retire. So we have people doing deliveries – a hard manual job, in all weathers – at 65. I don’t think people should be doing that job beyond 50, let alone beyond 60.
“Why should we have to accept a worse pension scheme when the employer took a 13 year pension holiday? We kept paying in and they kept the money.
“As well as the pension attack we also have the phantom shares scheme. That’s offering jam tomorrow as long as we do everything the employer wants today.
“I’m angry the government is squeezing us for every penny yet it can spend money without limit on the war in Iraq.”
Dave Kennedy, secretary of Northwest Central CWU, Stockport, told Socialist Worker, “The government licensed private firms to compete against Royal Mail and they have grabbed some of our work. Now our bosses say we have to be ‘flexible’ because of competition.
“There’s talk of ‘efficiency savings’, but the reality is tens of thousands of job losses and working conditions benchmarked against those put in place by the most ruthless of the private sector companies.”
Jane Loftus, a member of the CWU’s national executive, says, “We need a fightback, and it needs to start now. This is a test for the CWU and its leadership.
“We need to explain to our members what these attacks mean and develop a strategy to hit back against the government.
“The CWU must be the centre of resistance but we should have coordinated action across the public sector – alongside the w civil service union, health workers fighting the cuts and local government workers battling attacks on pensions and wages.
“There’s a real potential for unity if trade unions organise it.
“We also need a political response. During its dispute over local government pensions, the Unison union suspended funding and assistance to the Labour Party. We should do the same.”
All those quoted above appear in a personal capacity.
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