Royal Mail has launched a vicious assault on the postal service, threatening to axe up to 35,000 jobs and close dozens of sorting offices.
Royal Mail bosses, backed by the New Labour government, have revealed plans to shut mail centres across the country.
In the north west of England they intend to shut mail centres in Liverpool, Oldham, Bolton, Stockport and Crewe. These will be replaced with one regional distribution centre in Warrington.
Oxford, Reading and Coventry have all had closure plans confirmed, and management have even told the press that they have acquired sites for new buildings.
Royal Mail is saying that hundreds of delivery offices could also close.
Dave Ward, deputy general secretary of the CWU postal workers’ union, said, “Royal Mail has reneged on an agreed process by prematurely announcing this decision. The consultation period has not come to an end, making their announcement irresponsible and misleading.
“We believe Royal Mail’s plans are flawed, and have suggested a number of alternatives, such as relocating the current mail centre in Liverpool to another site in the Merseyside area.
“The proposal to relocate the Crewe operation to Warrington some 35 miles away would have a major impact on the workers at Crewe because Royal Mail is one of the major employers in the area.
“The Crewe operation consists of a number of full and part time staff and Royal Mail’s proposals are based on everyone at Crewe working in Warrington.
“We’re not prepared to sit around and accept this. The fear is that it will be repeated across the country.”
Mark Walsh, a Liverpool CWU branch secretary, said the planned closure of the Copperas Hill mail centre in the city was a case of history repeating itself.
“It is no surprise because it is a plan they wanted 11 years ago anyway,” he told Socialist Worker.
“It is what we expected, which means the process they have been going through is a sham.”
He said there had been no investment in Copperas Hill since 1997, adding, “We will consult our members and will consider balloting for industrial action.”
Some 200 night shift workers at Copperas Hill staged a 90-minute unofficial walkout in the early hours of Wednesday of last week, shortly after Royal Mail had announced its plans.
Workers at the mail centre were angry but not surprised by the news of the closure.
One worker told Socialist Worker, “They haven’t even considered the proposals that the union has put forward. The whole thing is a disgrace.”
Another told Socialist Worker, “The part-time staff are facing the biggest dilemma.
“There are 200 of them who work something like 25 hours a week. Who’s going to want to travel to Warrington on a part-time wage?”
New Labour’s business secretary John Hutton has made it clear he backs Royal Mail’s bid to axe the mail centres.
Hutton has postponed the announcement over the privatisation of the Post Office card account, which allows pensioners and those on benefits to collect their money from a local post office each week.
Presumably he is waiting to see whether Royal Mail management’s assault is successful.
One post worker from Coventry said, “Over 500 workers will be displaced in the closure plans and we’ve had no suitable suggestions for their future.
“There are simply not another 500 Royal Mail vacancies in Coventry for them.
“Management’s motives are questionable at best. We have to ballot for strike action, and quickly.”
Royal Mail’s announcement throws down the gauntlet to the CWU, which was set to announce what action it is to take over the closures as Socialist Worker went to press.
According to Paul Garraway, Oxford post worker and political officer for the CWU’s South Central No 1 branch, “There needs to be an immediate and determined national response to the closure plans from the union.
“It’s time for action – we need to have a strike ballot.”
The union passed policy at its annual conference to ballot for a strike over Royal Mail’s attacks on pensions and mail centre closures.
The CWU has announced a protest march at the Labour Party conference in Manchester on Monday 22 September.
Political campaigning linked to strike action could stop the Royal Mail bosses in their tracks, and defend jobs and the post service.
Postal workers at the Falmouth delivery office in Cornwall, are set to strike on Wednesday and Friday in protest at the sacking of a worker.