Socialist Worker

Don't let the Royal Mail bosses off so lightly

by Charlie Kimber
Issue No. 1805

ANOTHER 17,000 job losses in the post and a disgracefully lacklustre response from union leaders. That was the bad news for postal workers last week. Workers are being asked to pay for mistakes by the bosses, and the government's crazed commitment to the market and privatisation. The bosses used gross lies to justify the job losses.

The press release from Post Office management was headlined '£1.1 Billion Loss Underlines The Need For Radical Restructuring'. Operating losses were less than a third of that figure. Over £600 million is an exceptional amount to cover 13,000 redundancies already announced. Over the last 20 years the government collected £2 billion in 'dividends' from the Post Office. Why isn't a small amount of it used to subsidise the business now?

Another alternative to job losses would be to put up stamp prices on business mail. Instead of making these arguments and fighting back, union leaders put up a weak response. Billy Hayes, general secretary of the CWU union, said the union would work with the company to improve productivity where it was 'reasonable'.

He added that he wanted 'every job cut to be justified by management. We want to be sure job cuts will not affect the service or impact adversely on workmates.' How could 30,000 job losses not impact on services or workers? The loss of one worker in six cannot be absorbed.

The service will get much worse, and workers will have to work even harder. Already management have announced that the second delivery will go-households will get mail as late as 1pm. There will be a further 'restructuring' of Parcelforce and a 'streamlining' of the transport network, more outsourcing and yet more privatisation. Bosses and the government feared such moves would lead to strikes. But they have got off lightly so far.

The Financial Times crowed, 'Given 30,000 jobs are at stake, this is quite a step forward for a company that in past years has been responsible for more working days lost due to strikes than any other business.' 'Partnership' with management will not defend workers. Giving in just encourages more attacks. After the job losses, management announced changes to deliveries were going too slowly.

They threatened to withhold the agreed pay rise, due to be in pay packets this week, and refused leave for union reps to attend the CWU annual conference. Talks on these issues were going ahead as Socialist Worker went to press.

One of the best organised workforces in Britain is being butchered without a hint of real resistance. Now is the time for a new approach.


ELECTION RESULTS for the CWU postal executive show that the rank and file are unhappy with the way the union is going. Six members of the previous executive failed to win re-election. Jane Loftus, a supporter of Socialist Worker and the rank and file paper Post Worker, was elected clearly to the executive.

Jane got the fifth highest vote, beating several high profile figures in the union. She is the first member of a party other than the Labour Party to win election to the postal executive.

Jane told Socialist Worker, 'My vote reflects the feeling there should be a much more determined fightback over the job losses and to stop privatisation. At local level there is still powerful organisation which should be used to defend jobs and conditions. I have also consistently supported democratising the union's political fund. Members are asking why we continue to give all our political money to New Labour, the government that's trampling on our members' interests. We need to build rank and file networks to fight and argue for socialist policies. That is what I will be trying to do, especially with the other people involved in Post Worker.'

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Sat 22 Jun 2002, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1805
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