POSTAL WORKERS' union leaders were poised this week to call national strikes. The action will officially be over pay and conditions. But it will also focus the bitter anger against job losses, speed-up, harder working and privatisation. Delivery, sorting and driving workers voted overwhelmingly for national strikes over pay nearly three months ago.
Since then union leaders have dithered over calling action. Yet the bosses announced up to 40,000 job losses, and went ahead with outsourcing the Romec engineering division. Royal Mail wants to link a pay rise to new delivery arrangements. Businesses would still get their mail early in the day. The rest of us would get it as late as 1pm.
Pilot projects are supposed to test out the implications of the new system-but management are only allowing one new method, their method, to be tried out. Many postal workers are frustrated that it has taken so long for the union to move to action. But there is also a strong feeling to take some hard-hitting action against Post Office management.
Around 500 public sector workers, mostly postal workers and their families, marched in Northampton last Saturday against privatisation. Terry, a delivery worker from the area, told Socialist Worker, 'We need a real fight over the way this job is going down the pan. 'Everyone is really fed up because the workforce gets blamed for all the problems in the industry. The future seems to be just job cuts and private firms coming in to wreck everything.'
At a rally after the march CWU leader Billy Hayes said, 'Blair, Berlusconi and Aznar are linking up to liberalise the labour market across Europe. They see the British postal system as a test-bed, If they can push through privatisation here, then they can do the same across a continent. We need to get out on the streets. The TUC cannot stand back any longer. There needs to be a national demonstration against privatisation and in defence of public services.'
All of that is welcome. The best way to raise the temperature against privatisation is for postal workers to strike hard, and to link their action with the wider mood against New Labour's pro-business policies.