The CWU union postal executive was meeting this week with calls growing for a national strike ballot. Even more offices are now balloting over local disputes. The latest group includes Plymouth, Stoke and Preston mail centres.
There are now over 50 offices where Royal Mail management has imposed changes in conditions without agreement. These include changes in start times, turning full-time jobs into part-time and cutting jobs.
The local attacks are part of a neo-liberal onslaught arising from the government’s decision to open the market up to full competition with private firms. Royal Mail managers believe that the way to match multinationals is to cut costs to the bone and drive workers ever harder.
Workers’ organisation in the CWU and the agreements which their militancy have won in the past are a barrier to these plans. So Royal Mail boss Allan Leighton and his henchmen are out to shatter what they see as “restrictive” deals, destroy 40,000 jobs, weaken or tame the union and push ahead with plans in the longer term for privatisation of Royal Mail itself.
New Labour is uncertain whether to sign up to the whole of Leighton’s schemes, but has no doubts about encouraging competitors to snatch slices of the postal market, thereby privatising the business without, so far, privatising Royal Mail.
An increasing number of letters are now marked with the logos of private firms. They do not have the infrastructure to do the whole job, but the government allows them to collect mail from big firms and then pour it into Royal Mail offices for delivery at a low price.
A national strike ballot is the only effective response to the cuts and New Labour’s pro-business policies.