Socialist Worker


Issue No. 2333

A chance to block Royal Mail privatisation

The CWU union’s announcement that it may ballot members in Royal Mail over ceasing to handle competitors’ mail is welcome. But as union members we need to make sure our leaders take this chance to fight back seriously.

If the union’s proposal is implemented it will mean a huge battle against the privatisers. It could be a bridge to reigniting the fight over privatisation itself.

We should be worrying less about seeing the Royal Mail as a successful business and more about doing what the public really wants—arguing for a decent, cheap, and efficient universal service.

Stamp prices increased by nearly a third earlier this year in an attempt to reduce losses caused by “downstream access” by the competition.

This is where companies collect mail from big businesses and take it to Royal Mail to be delivered “downstream”, which costs more. It means private firms are creaming off profits from a public service.

But the increase in prices has meant that competitors are now starting to introduce a full delivery service, which will directly replicate Royal Mail deliveries and lead to job losses in Royal Mail.

TNT says it will create 20,000 jobs in the next five years. But these will not be full time and will be paid below the living wage. And they will be at the expense of the decent jobs of Royal Mail delivery staff.

The CWU needs to launch a mass campaign among its members and the public over the increased threat to services due to the potential sell-off of Royal Mail.

It needs to announce and campaign for a strike ballot that links up with other ballots over privatisation—in councils, the NHS, schools and elsewhere.

A post worker by email

Why was mosque rejected?

I joined up to 1,000 Muslims lobbying Newham council in east London for planning permission to build a mosque. Disgracefully the Labour council turned down the request again last Wednesday. The campaign has been on for 15 years.

Protesters included a big group of young women, many from local schools. I got a great welcome as one of the few white people there to support them.

At the root of the hostility to the building of mosques is Islamophobia. It is time we united to get the Riverine Centre built—sign the online petition.

Sheila McGregor, east London

Redefining Asperger’s

One controversy created by the new Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) for mental disorders in the US is the removal of Asperger’s syndrome. It will be amalgamated with other autistic spectrum disorders.

When homosexuality was removed from the DSM in 1974 it was a major step in its shift away from being seen as a mental health issue.

Some people with Asperger’s think the latest change will precipitate a move towards recognising them as a liberation group. Others, myself included, worry that people will no longer receive the support they need.

Matthew Bond, Sheffield

Windfarms can be an elegant solution

I think Stephen Macgill-Eain is off the mark on wind turbines. I have worked in the renewables industry on windfarms for four years and am also a keen hiker.

We need a massive investment in renewables. Britain is ideal for offshore windfarms. However, turbines on the land cost a lot less to install and can be producing power more quickly.

Not everyone sees them as an eyesore! Lots of people view them as something elegant and adding to the scenery. A real scar on our green spaces would be more nuclear and gas power stations, open cast mining for coal, and shale gas fracking sites.

My vision of socialism makes use of both offshore and onshore wind potential. Then we can enjoy stunning scenery for generations to come and put the worries of climate change behind us.

David Fagan, Liverpool

Which way should we vote in by-elections?

It was hard to know how those of us to the left of Labour should vote in some of the recent by-elections. In Rotherham it was easy because there was a rooted Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition candidate, although his vote was squeezed.

But what about areas where there wasn’t? Our general approach is to vote left if possible and to vote Labour where there isn’t a credible alternative.

In these by-elections it would be wrong to call for a vote for Labour at a juncture when they have committed themselves to cuts and have found themselves in a cleft stick over the benefit cuts.

But it would have been wrong to endorse Respect given George Galloway’s comments on rape. In Croydon we were not able to call for support for any of the candidates.

This does not mean, however, that in future by-elections or the next general election we will adopt the same position. We have to base our electoral position on the political circumstances current at the time.

In the meantime we have to explore every possibility of developing a credible alliance of our own.

Shaun Doherty, Oxford

Local stamps cost more

I sent a Christmas card to a relative in Canada, a distance of 3,400 miles, at a cost of £1.80 by airmail.

If I sent the same card to a relative in a village five miles away it costs 80p. So that’s 16p per mile in Wales and 0.055p per mile to Canada.

Is Royal Mail’s policy of continual price rises supposed to make the postal service more attractive to the private sector?

Derek Hanlin, Porth, South Wales

Labour’s weak cuts response

George Osborne’s statement was a bundle of cuts and attacks. But what was Labour’s response?

Ed Balls just went on about how the government was borrowing too much and complained that there isn’t enough “growth” in the economy.

He should have said there should be no cuts for ordinary people—because we didn’t cause the crisis.

Michelle Harker, Birmingham

Are taxes an optional extra?

Kris Engskov of Starbucks UK has announced that it will pay “a significant amount of tax during 2013 and 2014, regardless of whether the company is profitable.”

The public shouldn’t get excited. Despite sales of £400 million in 2011 the company is only prepared to pay £20 million over the next two years.

But you know what? I had no idea that paying taxes was optional.

Sasha Simic, east London

Incompetents back Virgin

Why on earth is the government letting Virgin trains run the West Coast Mainline for another two years?

It was meant to be a year but the Tories have extended it because it’s taking so long for them to investigate their botched bidding process.

It’s a shame they aren’t so incompetent when it comes to making cuts.

Debra Seldon, Northampton

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Article information

Tue 11 Dec 2012, 18:11 GMT
Issue No. 2333
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