Socialist Worker

The real plan for the Post Office: slash, burn and privatise

Issue No. 1793

Post Office bosses, backed by New Labour, have launched a ferocious attack on Post Office jobs. The 15,000 job cuts announced on Monday are the first round of a plan that will eventually slash 40,000 jobs. That's a fifth of the workforce. This is 'just the start, not the end', said Post Office chairman Allan Leighton. Parcelforce will be hit hardest first of all. Some 6,700 jobs are to go on top of 'natural wastage'.

Workers will have a 'choice'-redundancy or becoming an owner-driver. That means gambling on becoming a small businessman, and being responsible for your own insurance, sick pay, holidays, pension, etc. The post jobs massacre may hit 55,000. Post Office chief executive John Roberts said on Monday that total could be hit if the regulator's privatisation proposals were added to the present plans. This is a policy of slash and burn.

The government, which still owns the Post Office, stands behind the bosses. Labour trade and industry secretary Patricia Hewitt said that the cuts were 'unavoidable'. If these attacks go through, five Parcelforce distribution centres (Glasgow, east London, Leeds, Liverpool and Reading) will close. The number of Parcelforce depots will fall from 101 to 51. Four of Royal Mail's 16 mail distribution centres will also close in Cardiff, Chelmsford, Plymouth and Swindon.

The huge job losses assume privatisation and massively increased pressure on the workers who are left. Much of the Post Office's work will be done by private operators. This means fewer workers will be required. The Post Office will also drive its remaining workers harder and harder to keep profits up.

The recent pay offer is a sign of this. It is a pathetic increase linked to 'performance targets' that are far beyond any normal working. The Post Office has been starved of investment. In the 1990s government siphoned off some £2 billion of its profits.

But why should the Post Office have to make a profit every year anyway? Only a government narrowly focused on market values would demand this. This is one of the most serious challenges to British workers for several years. Yet the CWU union is only pledging action if there are compulsory redundancies. Is it acceptable for 40,000 jobs to be wiped out and conditions to be hammered, so long as it is all 'voluntary'?

The CWU union leaders are calling for an increase in stamp prices but not calling for action to win their demand. They should campaign for strikes now against job losses and privatisation, and encourage every sort of local resistance against the government's plans.

For more on the Post Office see page 15.

Workers get the chop...

Other workers facing job cuts this week include 1,200 at BP. Some 500 workers on North Sea oil rigs are set to lose their jobs. Around 700 jobs will go at the Grangemouth refinery near Edinburgh. A further 750 workers, including maintenance staff, cooks and cleaners, will lose their jobs at the Faslane and Coulport naval dockyards on the Clyde in Scotland. The remaining 3,000 workers are to be sold off to private operators for a quick buck.

...but bosses cash in

While workers face the dole, bosses are still raking in the cash.

  • BP boss Lord Browne got a 58 percent pay rise last year to hit a total packet of £7 million a year. Just six BP bosses will pocket nearly £19 million between them.
  • Barclays chief executive Matt Barrett will be paid more than £10 million over the next three years. His annual salary will be a 'basic' £1.1 million. He will get a yearly cash bonus matching his salary if the bank hits profit targets. He will also have his pension fund topped up by almost £1 million a year.
  • Executives at the Royal Bank of Scotland are grabbing pay increases of 26 percent. Top dog Fred Goodwin will receive a salary of £733,000. He will also get a bonus of £825,000.

Safe in rich areas

The 3,000 post offices threatened with closure will 'hit the poor and the most vulnerable the hardest', according to Martin Barnes, director of the Child Poverty Action Group:

'It will not be places like Hampstead and Richmond that will lose out. Instead it will be areas already hard hit by poverty and deprivation.'

Is Marconi the next to bite dust?

It was once hailed as a powerhouse of British industry. Now Marconi risks biting the dust. The Guardian reported that the company, formerly known as GEC, was 'on the brink of complete collapse' last week.

Bosses have already slaughtered 13,000 workers' jobs. Marconi's share price has plummeted from £12.76 two years ago to 8p on Friday of last week. The crisis in Marconi first came to light last year.

It spent billions expanding into manufacturing telecoms equipment, and was worth a massive £35 billion just a year ago. But the boom in the global telecoms market went bust last year. Marconi is now worth just £280 million.

Blair's Britain

  • New police powers mean officers will be able to keep records of DNA samples and fingerprints from people who are innocent of any crime. An extension of police powers was sneaked through in last year's Criminal Justice and Police Act.

    South Yorkshire police are now refusing to destroy the fingerprints they obtained from an 11 year old suspect, who was later found innocent in court.

  • Rail companies are not content with providing a rubbish service. They want to further rob passengers by reducing discounts to railcard holders.

    Network card holders in the south east and southern coastal areas will no longer get reductions on fares which cost less than £10 from June. This will hit poor families the hardest as adults and children will not get the discount they used to be entitled to.

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Article information

Sun 8 Apr 2007, 12:55 BST
Issue No. 1793
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