THE CRUNCH is coming over privatisation in the Post Office. This week the postal regulator, PostComm, was expected to announce that it was awarding licences to private company Hays DX for mail collection and delivery. Hays wants to operate in the business districts of London, Edinburgh and Manchester, cherry-picking mail that is easy to move.
The company also hopes to set up a national business delivery service that would normally operate through Royal Mail but could 'go private' in the event of a strike. Opening up the market to private firms is a step towards privatisation of the Post Office.
It follows last week's announcement that Consignia (the bosses' new name for the Post Office) is looking for bids to take over part or all of its entire fleet of 40,000 vehicles plus 180 depots and workshops. This could mean every item of post being moved by a private carrier. Consignia says that drivers' existing terms and conditions would be maintained. But future recruits would not be protected.
This is the road to a non-union workforce moving the mail. The union's deputy general secretary, John Keggie, said that the move would be met 'legally, politically and industrially'. There must be an immediate strike ballot covering the whole postal workforce. If just the drivers and associated grades are balloted then it will lead to delivery and processing workers being asked to cheerfully march through their mates' picket lines while they are fighting privatisation.
That won't happen. The national officials should know that the choice for them is to call a national ballot or to have a half-official, half-unofficial strike from below. We are in the frontline of the battle against privatisation. We must watch our leaders like hawks. Some want a ballot but hope they can avoid a fight. Others hope that holding the ballot will string the issue out indefinitely.
Others tell us to 'keep our powder dry' for the big struggle to come. This is it. Privatisation is already a growing reality in the post. If we let this week's developments pass without a big response then we are cutting our throats. Every union activist must:
Push their office and branch to demand that the union calls an immediate strike ballot covering all postal workers.
Demand the union launches a big public campaign including rallies and demonstrations against privatisation of the post in any form.
Build support for the demonstration at the Labour Party conference on 30 September.
Prepare to fight unofficially if the union won't do so officially. If Edinburgh walks out because Hays is taking their work then everyone should back them and make it the focus of the anti-privatisation campaign.
Post Worker national meeting
AROUND 40 Post Office activists from almost every region of Britain came to a meeting organised by the Post Worker rank and file paper last Saturday. They ranged from a casual worker who has just started in the job to one of the union's leading officials.
This represented the core of a rank and file group which is selling 4,000 copies of each edition of its paper. The meeting discussed privatisation and unanimously passed a motion calling for a strike ballot of the whole workforce over the vehicle services outsourcing. People at the meeting were determined to extend Post Worker's influence and keep it a broad forum for all those who want to build resistance to the bosses' attacks and the government's Tory policies.
Post Worker editorial board members suggested they would like to produce posters, badges and so on. Everyone was urged to make sure Post Worker is not held back by a lack of cash. The meeting also discussed the Sawyer report into industrial relations in the post. As one activist put it, 'Our response should be that we will give up our right to strike when they give up their right to manage.'
For more details of Post Worker or to get involved phone 07904 157 779.