Socialist Worker

Billy Hayes calls for support in building the campaign against Post Office market move

by BILLY HAYES, general secretary CWU union
Issue No. 1941

The decision of Postcomm to fully open the postal market to competition in 2006 is sadly predictable.

They have a consultation process and then carry out that which they intended in the first place. It is a cherry-pickers charter.

But, we believe that if Royal Mail is secure with adequate public funding there will be no real progress by competitors.

Royal Mail management are likely to warn of a “financial crisis” some way down the line as an excuse for privatisation. Our policy will prevent this.

The CWU has begun a campaign to ensure that the Labour government implements the commitment in the Warwick agreement to keep Royal Mail in the public sector.

We are also refining our policy to campaign amongst our members.

A major document has been published, Delivering Quality: the Post Office in the public sector. This is basis for a public consultation about the future of Royal Mail.

The document demonstrates that Royal Mail is an expanding industry, having grown faster than economic output since the start of the 1980s.

The problem has been that successive governments have starved the industry of investment in anticipation of privatisation.

Underinvestment has expressed itself in two ways. First, in a failure to provide sufficient new machinery, buildings and customer services. Secondly, in a failure to improve the wages and conditions of postal workers.

In all sections of the industry—letters, parcels and counters—there has been an absence of service innovation. Managers are scared to innovate or invest because of budgetary constraints.

Staff costs as a proportion of net operating costs are down from 65 percent to 57 percent in the past decade. Whilst the industry has got absolutely richer, the workforce has got relatively poorer.

So the first thing to demonstrate to an incoming Labour government is how these problems can be addressed whilst keeping Royal Mail in the public sector. We believe there are two key mechanisms.

First, the profits created in the industry must be kept within the industry.

What this means is that the dividend that is given to the treasury will simply be retained in the industry for service improvements and for dealing with low wages and long hours.

Second, we believe stamp prices should be regulated by a formula of “RPI + Y”. That means stamp prices rise by the price of inflation plus an addition agreed with the regulator to cover the cost of addressing underinvestment.

We need such clear policies because it is certain where management want to go. Allan Leighton wants to have a share flotation that will allow for private capital to be brought into Royal Mail. This is privatisation by another name.

Our campaign is to create sufficient political interest to ensure that privatisation cannot take place.

We had a parliamentary lobby on Tuesday of this week and will be organising regional meetings in the run-up to the general election.

We are creating an alliance between the union, service users and local communities in support of a publicly owned Royal Mail. A genuine coalition can ensure that Royal Mail is successful as a public sector company.

We hope readers of Socialist Worker will support the CWU’s initiatives.

Copies of Delivering Quality are available from the general secretary’s department of the CWU, or can be downloaded from www.cwu.org


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News
Sat 5 Mar 2005, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1941
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