TONY BLAIR'S candidate for a top position in the postal workers' CWU union was soundly defeated last week. John Keggie, a member of Labour's national executive, was defeated by Dave Ward for the post of deputy general secretary (postal). This is the position which Keggie presently holds. Keggie took 16,814 votes - Ward won 19,404.
'There was cheering on the sorting floor when the result came through,' says an Oxfordshire postal worker. 'Keggie has negotiated some rotten deals and is in bed with Blair. I'm yet to be convinced that Ward is any great shakes. But he's not Keggie. I look forward to seeing Keggie doing 5am starts at a delivery office again.'
This is the second time Keggie has been humiliated. He was expected to win the leadership of the CWU two years ago but was defeated by the left's candidate, Billy Hayes. He would have been confident of hanging on to his position this time. But he lost because he is associated with the 'pro-partnership' agenda of working with the management and of cuddling up to New Labour over the war against Iraq and much else.
The vote is a sign that postal workers want a more aggressive union response to Blair and the bosses. The results for the rest of the national executive showed that, although some members had voted as recommended by geographically - based 'regional blocs', others had voted on the record and politics of the candidates.
Socialist Worker supporter Jane Loftus was re-elected to the executive, coming third out of the 13 successful candidates. Jane told Socialist Worker, 'Some people voted for candidates because they were from the north or the south of Britain. I won votes from all areas because people agree we need a united fightback to win better pay and conditions for all postal workers. That means £4,000 London weighting and higher basic pay. I have also fought for greater accountability of the executive to the membership and against New Labour's policies such as the war against Iraq.'
There are four big issues for postal workers at the CWU union conference, which begins this weekend:
Relations with New Labour: A series of motions call for changes to the present use of the political fund. Unfortunately because of the way the debate has been organised the real alternative - to democratise the fund and use it as members wish - may not be heard. Delegates should insist that it is.
London weighting: London workers have voted 99 percent for action over weighting in an unofficial ballot. That needs to be turned into action - and quickly. If the union's national leaders won't start a real fight then it will have to be done unofficially.
Delivery changes: Royal Mail last week announced its financial results were 38 percent better than last year - and that 16,000 jobs have gone in the process. Now many more job cuts are threatened through the introduction of a single delivery and other speed-up measures. This was reported in the press as '£20 a week extra for postal workers'. But the £20 is a performance-based maximum which very few offices would be able to reach. The proposed deal could also enshrine earlier starts and, in some areas, workers doing three delivery 'walks' instead of their present one. Management is deadly serious about forcing through big changes. Post Office chairman Allan Leighton said last week, 'The task this year is to make the necessary changes in mail deliveries and transportation that will deliver the large cost savings essential for future profits.' Adam Crozier, the new chief executive of Royal Mail, added, 'We've got to not just maintain the momentum of change, but to increase the pace. I'm confident that we can move into profit this current financial year.' The union leaders, in particular the new deputy general secretary Dave Ward, should stop making concessions and start fighting over jobs. They should not accept the bosses' logic that the only way to get better pay is to sell conditions and slash staff.
Privatisation: recent moves by the government-appointed regulator will enable private firms to collect mail in the big cities and the dump it with Royal Mail to deliver across Britain at a knockdown price. This means companies do the easy and profitable bit and get the public network to do the hard and costly bit. The union must oppose all privatisation moves.
IN A crazy victory for profit over the environment, safety and public health, the Post Office is selling off its underground railway system in London. The line, which is separate from the main tube network, is used to move 3.4 million mailbags a week. It was opened 75 years ago to combat London's traffic congestion. That wise move is beyond the understanding of today's bosses. Royal Mail will now shift all its mail through London by road 'to cut costs'.