Socialist Worker

Postal workers: it's time to act, not just mouth

Issue No. 1794

Every day that passes increases the urgency of a fightback against job cuts and privatisation in the Post Office.

Last week 15,000 job losses were announced. This week the Post Office confirmed there would be many more, pushing towards the bosses' target of 40,000. Post Office chairman Allan Leighton is determined to make workers pay the price of making the business profitable again.

Yet the CWU postal workers' union leaders seem paralysed by the scale of the attacks. At the start of this week, seven days after tens of thousands of job losses were reported, activists were still waiting for a detailed briefing from union headquarters in response.

All there has been is a plea from union leaders to raise stamp prices and a hope that job losses will be voluntary. Jane Loftus, a CWU member on Merseyside, says, 'It is not good enough to let jobs go through 'voluntary' means. There are Parcelforce depot closures and mail depot closures which should be fought. Everyone is asking how it is possible to run the service with 40,000 fewer workers. It can't be done unless they expect loads of work to go through privatisation and the workers who remain are pushed even harder than they are now.'

The union has called a lobby of parliament in London later this month. Every activist must build that as big as possible. But it should be a national strike day. Managers still fear action. The Sunday Business newspaper reported last weekend, 'Central to Allan Leighton's thinking is the need to avoid industrial action by postal workers. The Post Office chairman is acutely aware of how damaging a summer postal strike would be to his plans to turn the company around.'

The CWU national executive voted last week to cut the money it gives to the Labour Party by £500,000 over the next three years. The move is a reflection of the anger from below against the union funding the party which then sacks and attacks CWU members.

But just cutting the cash is a diversion from the real issue. It is a substitute for action, camouflage for the leadership's floundering refusal to do more than mouth off.

Instead of just cutting money to Labour, the CWU should be opening up the political fund so members can decide to give some of the money to socialist organisations that reflect the union's policies. One good sign in the last week has been some union branches beginning to gear up for campaigns to stop depot closures in their local area. In the absence of a national, official lead areas will have to push for action locally. They should prepare to fight unofficially and to pull other areas out themselves.

And the left in the CWU has to begin pressing hard for an alternative strategy for the union. The basic demands should be:

  • Cut hours, not jobs. Implement CWU conference policy of fighting for a 35-hour week.
  • Stop all privatisation - no to job losses or closures.
  • Strike for a decent pay rise, and against job losses and privatisation.
  • Call a national demonstration alongside other public sector unions.
  • Democratise the union's political fund.

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Article information

Sat 6 Apr 2002, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1794
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