Business secretary Lord Mandelson’s plans to privatise Royal Mail are in deep trouble.
This week he was forced to admit that legislation for the sell-off will not be put to parliament before the summer break.
Labour insiders say there is now little chance of the bill making progress until after the next general election.
To add to Mandelson’s woes, postal workers in London chose this week to announce a
further three days of strike action against cuts and the breaking of national agreements.
Workers at delivery offices, network drivers and mail centres will start a rolling programme of action, the details of which will be announced soon.
Lee Wenban, the CWU union’s area delivery rep for south east London, told Socialist Worker that the mood for action among his members is strong.
“Management in the delivery offices are on the back foot. And in the next wave of action the three big mail centres will be out with us as well – legal action by Royal Mail kept them out of the last wave,” he said.
Following a reballot, all three mail centres voted for action – Nine Elms by 80 percent, Mount Pleasant by 89 percent, and Rathbone Place by 94 percent.
“Everyone knows that this is a political fight with the
government, as well as Royal Mail management. That means that we’ve got to spread the strikes nationally,” says Lee.
“But rather than have a national ballot, which would take weeks and lose the momentum we’ve built up, I want any part of the country that wants to fight to join us for a day of strike action later this month.”
Gerry Lecointe, who works in a delivery office in north London, told Socialist Worker about the mood in his office.
“People here can’t wait for the next strike,” he said. “Picket lines at my office were the strongest I’ve ever seen during the action last month. I think this reflects three things.
“First, anger at the prospect of privatisation. Second, anger at the way the government is in bed with Royal Mail bosses. And third, anger at the way management in the offices are behaving.
“People here were already on the verge of walking out this week after management attempted to suspend a worker without following the procedure agreed with the union.”
Members of the CWU in the east of England are also gearing up for a fight.
Around 400 workers at the Ipswich mail centre were set to strike on Tuesday of this week. They will be joined by the nearby Thetford delivery office.
Dave Scott, the union’s area delivery rep for Suffolk, told Socialist Worker that during recent strike action at Thetford some 130 managers from across the region were drafted into the office.
“Our members in Ipswich were outraged when they heard about it,” he said. “Normally, Thetford would only have 40 people in it. Now everyone agrees that we need to hit back – including many of those who didn’t support the last national strike.”
Dave says the mood is spreading across Norfolk and Suffolk and that many other offices are asking to be balloted.
“I think the idea that all offices with a live ballot should coordinate action later in the month – which is coming from the union’s London division – is a good one. We’d want to be in on that.”
Offices in many other parts of the country could join in, including some in Bristol, Durham, Edinburgh, Glasgow, North Yorkshire, Plymouth and Stoke.
However, there are many important parts of the country that are not currently in dispute – despite the fact almost all offices have been affected by Royal Mail’s attempts to ram through “cost savings”.
It is vital that over the coming weeks every union rep argues that their office should join the wave of action.
They must also ensure that no work from striking offices is handled by their members.
With the government’s privatisation plans in such deep trouble, there has rarely been a better time for the union to hit back.