Postal Workers are set for a head-on confrontation with their bosses and the government over privatisation. The Communication Workers Union had been preparing to hold a strike ballot over pay. But it has now switched to the question of putting out to contract sections such as vehicle services, parcel deliveries and cleaning.
John Keggie, the union's deputy general secretary, says, 'The union's membership are fed up with being blamed for inefficiency. 'Now Consignia are threatening to outsource and smash up the public Post Office. 'We will ballot our entire membership within Consignia in response to recent announcements to withdraw all job security arrangements and introduce compulsory redundancy.'
The latest plan from Consignia (the bosses' stupid name for the Post Office) is to offer parcels workers the 'choice' of being shut down completely or accepting that most of the workforce will be self employed owner-drivers. Hardly a day goes past without management further insulting the union and the workforce or announcing another privatisation scheme.
Although no strikes are planned before Christmas, a major battle is now coming. Union leaders have been slow to start the battle. But they know the rank and file have had enough of management attacks and are ready to fight. It will not just be an industrial battle. Consignia bosses reflect New Labour's policy of relying on the private sector and driving workers harder.
The Department of Trade and Industry has already said that the outsourcing issue is 'up to the company'. If postal workers strike it will be a major political issue which can give a focus to workers everywhere. Every postal worker must push their union branch and other activists to:
- Organise a campaign now to win the strike ballot by the biggest majority possible.
- Organise a public campaigning event to explain the issues.
- Make links with other rank and file activists to pressure the union leaders, and make sure the campaign and strikes do not sell postal workers short.
Further meetings between the union and Consignia have removed the immediate threat of a clash over pay. The CWU wants a 5 percent rise.
Just as the union is moving to a national strike, the government regulator, PostComm, has licensed a scab private service. Deya Ltd has been given permission, with immediate effect, to provide a British-wide postal service for electricity, phone, gas and other companies, as well as local authorities.
Its purpose is clear. It would deliver bills 'in periods of disruption-such as industrial action by Post Office employees'. Deya has been delivering telephone directories for British Telecom since 1982. It has a database of 50,000 delivery contractors throughout Britain and delivers around 20 million items per year.
EAST LONDON: postal workers in Walthamstow, E17, struck last week over a manager. This is the same manager who was moved out of an office in South Woodford after he verbally attacked a woman worker. He was sent to Walthamstow and separated from the workforce pending an inquiry into the case. Last week he was moved back onto the floor in what Royal Mail bosses said was an assertion of their 'right to manage'. Walthamstow struck and other parts of east London were set to join them. Bosses then backed off and the manager was taken off the floor. 'The position is clear-they do not have the right to manage!' said one of the strikers.
MILTON KEYNES: Workers at the Brinklow delivery office walked out on Friday of last week over deliveries. They were joined by other workers in the main Milton Keynes mail centre. After a brief stoppage managers backed off.
HAMPSHIRE: Postal workers in Hampshire are threatening a strike after workers were disciplined for not having their shirts tucked into their trousers. CWU union rep Richard Tabbner said that, although the issue might seem ridiculous, management should change regulations so that nobody should be suspended over a breach of such regulations.