If the government is serious about minimising unemployment, why is it pushing ahead with plans that will lead to the slashing of tens of thousands of jobs in Royal Mail?
That is the question that many trade unionists and Labour Party members are asking as the government presses ahead with plans to privatise Royal Mail. This will lead to scores of office closures and many full time jobs being replaced by “flexible” part timers.
Business secretary Lord Mandelson claims that the only way for the company to “modernise” is to secure private capital.
Yet last week the basis for his plans was undermined by Royal Mail’s announcement of record profits – a staggering £255 million in the nine months to Christmas.
Already rival mail firm TNT and the private equity group CVC are circling Royal Mail like vultures, knowing that they could grab still greater profits by slashing more jobs.
This week Mandelson is expected to announce a new chair for Royal Mail.
Their brief will be to push through privatisation at great speed, in the hope that this will bypass opposition from the public and trade unions.
The government already has Tory and Liberal Democrat support for its proposals.
Only the most determined campaign, including strike action, will be able to stop privatisation.
Lee Baron, Midlands regional secretary for the postal workers’ CWU union, believes that what the union does now could determine the future of the industry.
“Everyone knows that privatisation of Royal Mail would be massively unpopular – especially in the middle of a recession.
“That’s why so many MPs have backed an Early Day Motion against it, and why Mandelson wants get it through so quickly.
“If the CWU can galvanise the public by explaining the way privatisation threatens thousands of jobs and a massive reduction in service, we can force the government to abandon the plan – but we have to act fast.
“We are organising a national rally in Post Office minister Pat McFadden’s Wolverhampton constituency on 14 March.
“We need to turn this rally into a show of strength and I appeal to every trade unionist to give it their backing.”
Lee hopes that the rally will be the springboard to one of the biggest national campaigns that his union has ever run, and that this will force the government into a rethink. But he is also clear that the union may need to flex its industrial muscles too. CWU general secretary Billy Hayes echoed this view while addressing over 300 postal workers in Plymouth last Sunday.
He said, “Postal workers in Plymouth have a right to be concerned about their jobs and the future of the industry. The prospect of the mail sorting centres closing could lead to strikes.”
National march and rally against the privatisation of Royal Mail, Saturday 14 March, 11.30am, Wolverhampton city centre (assembly point to be confirmed). Speakers to include Geraldine Smith MP, John Grogan MP, Billy Hayes, Dave Ward and Jane Loftus