Socialist Worker

Serious battles coming

Issue No. 1729

POSTAL workers will face serious challenges this year as reports in the press are saying that Post Office bosses and the government are preparing to attack them and their CWU union. Fortunately there are plenty of signs that postal workers are prepared to resist any attacks.

Peter Carr, chair of the Post Office National Users Council, launched a scathing attack on postal workers and the CWU just before Christmas. He is unlikely to have made the move without encouragement from the government and management. Carr told the Daily Telegraph that the post is 'the last unreformed industry' in Britain, and that 'the union has got to discipline its militant members and the Post Office has to tackle the problem head on.'

The Telegraph called for privatisation to sort out the problem. At the same time a report in Sunday Business says that the new Post Office regulator, Postcomm, has decided to scrap the Post Office's monopoly of mail deliveries.

This would open up the entire £7.5 billion postal market to private firms. The move could happen as early as March and would threaten 50,000 jobs. Right wing papers, the regulator, Post Office bosses and many in the government are incensed that postal workers continue to defend themselves by militant action in defiance of the anti-union laws.

Militant action will be needed again this year. Outstanding issues include:

  • Further threats of 'partnership' with private firms-privatisation by another name.

  • More privatisation of high street post offices.

  • The year 2000 pay claim in Royal Mail, which is still far from settled.

  • Post Office bosses' continued attempts to victimise effective union reps.

    The union is set to elect a new general secretary when Derek Hodgson begins his retirement process this year. This will be an important chance to debate what strategy the union should adopt in the coming battles.

    A series of postal strikes around Christmas were condemned by mail bosses and most of the media. But all of them were justified responses to management attacks.

    On 18 December around 500 workers struck officially for 24 hours in Coventry. They are angry and frustrated that Royal Mail has failed to keep its promise to introduce a five-day week for delivery workers. CWU rep Mick Kavanagh said there was 'massive support' for the strike, with 99.9 percent of delivery and distribution staff on strike.

    He said, 'There is further action planned, and the only way this will be averted is if management get back round the table and start talking. 'The basic salary for a postman is just £242 a week before tax. That's for six days a week, Monday to Saturday.'

    A few days after Christmas workers at West Derby in Liverpool stopped work unofficially in a dispute over workloads. Management refused to make any concessions and CWU union members stopped work for 24 hours. 'That showed them whether the mail was going to go out or not,' said one of the strikers.

    Workers at Luton struck, and their colleagues in Romford, Essex, also held a work to rule over the Christmas period because management had reneged on pledges about arrangements of overtime and pay.

    Over 14,000 postal workers in Scotland were offered 25 first class and 20 second class stamps by Royal Mail in place of a Christmas bonus. An Edinburgh CWU member told Socialist Worker, 'It's a bloody disgrace but hardly a surprise. One year ago we got a packet of flower seeds.'

    South London

    OVER 300 workers from 29 post offices in the SE1 to SE28 postcode areas in London struck officially on 18 December against the privatisation of Westminster Bridge Road post office.

    This is the first such privatisation in London under New Labour. Labour minister Kate Hoey, the local MP, joined the pickets and condemned the sell-off: 'This is a very well used post office and the staff are very popular with the public. It is quite wrong that this is being changed and that local people are given no real say in what happens to their service.'

    Retired nursery teacher Patricia Scott was also supporting the pickets at Westminster Bridge Road. She said, 'This post office is very accessible. 'The staff look out for you. Privatisation has been a catastrophe for the railways. The Post Office is an essential part of our lives and should not be privatised.'

    Mole Meade, the CWU's regional Counters chair, says, 'With property prices at a premium in central London you have to worry about the long term security of postal service on this site. The fact that the franchise is being handed to a businessman and property developer does not bode well.'

    North London

    MICK DOHERTY, the CWU union's North/North West London branch chair, was told just before Christmas that his appeal against being sacked had been dismissed. This is a serious attack on the union which every level of the CWU needs to take seriously.

    Mick was suspended from his job as a counter clerk at Essex Road office after alleged involvement in violence at the UEFA Cup final in Copenhagen. Mick was not arrested, detained, charged or deported while in Copenhagen. His union branch says, 'Mick is a victim of trial by media. Allegations made in certain newspapers have been exposed as lies, inaccuracies and unsubstantiated hearsay.

    'Following correspondence between the Post Office and the police it has been established that Mick is not a convicted football hooligan, and he does not have a criminal record. We feel Mick was victimised due to him being a senior, effective union official. Mick has already lodged his application for an employment tribunal, as has his brother Tom, who was dismissed in July last year for similar reasons. Both applications are supported by CWU HQ.'

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    Article information

    Sat 6 Jan 2001, 00:00 GMT
    Issue No. 1729
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