London postal workers are campaigning against the closure of two mail centres and a giant delivery office.
At stake is the future of a decent public service in the capital and the jobs of thousands of workers.
The CWU union’s London divisional committee says, “Royal Mail’s decision to sell Rathbone Place delivery centre, sell Nine Elms mail centre and to close East London mail centre should have surprised nobody.
“Their review into London mail centres has been a sham from the start. This had nothing to do with improving customer service, increasing productivity or protecting Royal Mail workers from compulsory redundancies.
“This review has always been about raising as much cash as possible.”
The CWU is determined to campaign against a move that will lead to jobs going, including compulsory redundancies—though bosses deny this.
East London workers plan a mass meeting this month to decide how best to challenge management’s plans.
They are angry at the way they have been treated—and ready to fight to defend jobs and the service.
In mid-September, without any notice to the union reps, management in East London called together groups of between eight and 15 workers and briefed them that the mail centre would close.
East London’s work, said bosses, would be transferred to Romford and Mount Pleasant.
CWU reps asked for the right to address their members in work time, but this was refused.
A week later management held a series of slide show presentations designed to win workers to the “logic” of closing the centre.
But people pointed out that the figures on the slides showed that East London met Royal Mail’s criteria for it to stay open.
For many, this confirmed their view that the closure was motivated by spite and a determination to destroy a well-organised union branch.
A rep at the mail centre told Socialist Worker, “At first the reaction to the closure announcement was shock and paralysis. But now the feeling is for resistance.”
Royal Mail’s decision to close East London makes no financial sense as the lease does not expire until 2022 and is fully paid up until then.
This means that Royal Mail will have to pay the costs of the site for another 12 years.
East London’s mail centre serves Canary Wharf and the expanding Thames Gateway. According to the plans, the 2012 Olympics will produce some 26,000 new delivery points.
The environmental cost of the closure will be huge—all present work will have to be driven to Romford along the A12 or A127.
“The social impact will also be massive,” said East London CWU processing rep Angie Mulcahy. “We are proud that we have a very diverse workforce. Many work part-time.
“They may be offered transfers—but only to work on the other side of London. They earn so little money that it will hardly be worth their while doing the job.
“And the service will collapse. The combination of shutting the three offices will mean that a letter posted in a London postal district may well take two days to be delivered in that same district.”
Another East London worker said, “We are not going to meekly walk away.
“I think our mass meeting will have to start building for strikes—I hope across the whole of London.”