Socialist Worker

Prepare for post privatisation battle

by Jane Loftus, CWU executive (personal capacity)
Issue No. 1961

THE GOVERNMENT has given the clearest indication yet that it is going to privatise the post. It won’t admit it is privatisation, but all the indications are that ministers are ready to end the Royal Mail’s present structure.

On Thursday of last week trade and industry secretary Alan Johnson announced that Professor Sir George Bain will review the future of postal deliveries. A report by Bain was used to undermine the firefighters’ pay claim.

Bain’s review could give the go-ahead to Royal Mail chairman Allan Leighton’s plan to issue shares in the company and give some of them to the workforce.

Johnson told MPs he was “not ruling out” such moves. Labour MP Geraldine Smith, who is sponsored by the CWU union, argued that the share schemes would break the party’s manifesto assurance that it had “no plans to privatise” Royal Mail.

This campaign will be a major test for the union and its relationship with Labour. We need the greatest possible unity of all those who want to halt privatisation. We need campaign committees in every office and region.

We want propaganda to match whatever Leighton produces and we need the highest level of rank and file involvement—don’t wait for headquarters or anyone else. But we also must keep pushing the union leadership to act and make sure that loyalty to Labour is not allowed to get in the way of an effective campaign.

Last week around 65 postal workers came together for a meeting in London against privatisation. Called as an unofficial initiative, it attracted many of the union’s postal executive and was attended by general secretary Billy Hayes.

There were good campaigning ideas and we need more rank and file initiatives. Everywhere we need to put out clear arguments against Leighton:

1. This is privatisation. Once shares are issued to workers it is a small step to others being sold to companies or individuals.

2. Leighton’s scheme will offer a few short term gains, and a lot of long term pain. The solution to low pay is decent rises in basic pensionable pay, not gimmicks.

Workers in Romec, one of the privatised sections of the post, have just begun a strike ballot over pay. They were promised privatisation would improve their earnings, in fact it meant money was drained off to shareholders’ profits.

3. Holding shares will not protect workers from job losses or attacks on conditions. Rover workers were all shareholders—it didn’t stop their company closing without any consultation with them.

4. The share scheme is part of a wider plan to marginalise the union. Leighton wants workers to feel that their first loyalty is to the company, not to their mates and the union.

Plimpton dispute

POSTAL WORKERS in Plimpton, Plymouth, have won major concessions after voting for a strike.

Action was called off after management made significant moves over a plan to cut hours. A strong campaign by the union has also reversed attempts to close the Parcelforce depot at Roborough.

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Article information

Sat 30 Jul 2005, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1961
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