Socialist Worker

Sack Allan Leighton, the post privateer

by Jane Loftus, CWU national executive (personal capacity)
Issue No. 2001

illustration by Leon Kuhn

illustration by Leon Kuhn

Allan Leighton, the chairman of Royal Mail, should be sacked and all his privatisation plans should be binned with him.

Postal workers didn’t know for sure at the start of this week whether Leighton would announce the issue of shares of 20 percent of Royal Mail to the staff – a privatisation move.

On Monday trade and industry secretary Alistair Darling refused to rule out such a move.

But we do know for certain that Royal Mail has tried its hardest to frustrate and obstruct the union’s democratic ballot of its members over the future of the post office. It has arrogantly imposed a pay deal which had been rejected by our union.

We also know that Leighton, put in place by Labour to run Royal Mail, has been campaigning hard for the share sale.

A public employee who sees it as his role to peddle privatisation should go. If Labour won’t sack Leighton it shows that this government is as contemptuous of public services as he is.

Royal Mail was expected to announce this week that it had made around £600 million profit in 2005. This hasn’t held back the demands for tens of thousands of job cuts or the clampdown on basic pay.

We rejected the pathetic offer of a 2.9 percent rise – less than £10 a week extra before tax. So the bosses brushed aside any pretence of negotiation and imposed it last week.

This led to walkouts at Oxford (see Imposition of pay deal sparks Oxford wildcat walkout) and action at several other offices across Britain. Everywhere there is outrage.

Royal Mail’s attacks are not just about the current pay talks. This is a calculated act of hostility to destabilise the union.

The company wants the union out of the way so it can drive through its plan of privatisation and of moving towards a core of full time workers and a mass of poorly paid part timers.

The CWU union conference which begins this weekend has to be a council of war, a springboard for serious resistance.

The union leadership has tabled a motion that calls on Royal Mail to reopen pay negotiations, resolve outstanding efficiency issues and pay all the money workers are owed.

The union is seeking “a substantial first step” towards our strategy of catching, matching and overtaking average basic pay in Britain, currently £395 per week.

At the moment postal workers are £80 a week short of that.

The motion adds that if acceptable progress is not made on these and other linked objectives by four weeks after conference, we will implement a nationwide ballot for a strike.

There must be no delay and no hesitation in campaigning for a strike. Nor should Royal Mail be allowed to get away with making a few minor concessions while leaving the essential framework of their attacks untouched.

As well as these crucial industrial issues, there is also the issue of our political affiliation. Must we wait for Labour to cut the throats of all our members before we withhold cash to Labour?

We keep handing money to a government which acts in total contradiction to CWU policies – on the Iraq war, over pensions, over anti-union laws, over the NHS and in the post and tele-communications industry with closures and franchising of high street post offices.

On Tuesday the CWU national executive voted unanimously to accept an emergency motion to conference which calls for all money to Labour to be suspended if a share issue goes ahead.

Perhaps the announcement over shares has been held back until after our conference. But the clamour for suspending cash to Labour and using our political fund for candidates who support our policies will not go away.

Jane Loftus was one of 13 postal workers elected to the CWU’s executive last week. She received the second highest vote of all candidates.

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