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Postal workers fight privatisation

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Issue 1755

Postal workers fight privatisation

Prepare for next round of strikes

POSTAL WORKERS in London are gearing up for a new round of strikes just as their bosses are pressing ahead with privatisation. Workers at the NDO office in north London are poised to strike on Friday 6 July and Monday 9 July in the latest phase of their campaign to stop 1,300 jobs going out of the area. Management have said that workers must apply for job transfers on a “first come, first served” basis. Bosses added that there might be redundancies if people do not accept the jobs they are offered.

“We’re ready to fight, and if Royal Mail escalate to national action by asking other offices to do our work then we’re ready for that as well,” a CWU union member at NDO told Socialist Worker.

There are so many grievances across the capital against Post Office bosses that the London leaders of the CWU union are calling for a strike ballot across the area.

Consignia (the stupid corporate name for the Post Office) was due to announce its financial results this week. Bosses will moan that their profits are down because workers won’t roll over and accept harder and faster working with worse conditions. A company source told the Observer last weekend, “Consignia lost 66,000 working days due to industrial action last year compared with 23,000 the year before. Of these 63,000 were unofficial.

“The union is not in control of the membership, and they have just elected a hardline leader so it is not going to get any better.” In fact Consignia’s figures greatly underestimate the scale of strikes. The reality is at least twice the number given.

Workers are protesting against bullying management, attacks on their union organisation, harsh new work patterns and being treated like robots. Private firms, much of Post Office management and many in the New Labour cabinet believe that privatisation is the answer to their problems in the post. Preparations are gathering pace.

Hays, the business services group, has applied to the postal regulator for a number of licences to deliver mail. The company proposes that it should be given a national business licence. This would be a profit-grabbing and strikebreaking service. Firms would contract Hays to deal with their mail collection and sorting for a certain price. Then Hays will find the “most efficient” way to deliver the mail. Normally this would be through Royal Mail. But a company spokesperson told Socialist Worker, “If there is a strike then we would move it some other way. We could use our own systems or subcontract to another major freight operator. “We believe this would be very attractive to banks and other large companies who are inconvenienced by the disruption to their mail traffic.”

Hays also wants a licence to deliver mail in parts of London, Manchester and Edinburgh in direct competition with Royal Mail. The details of the company’s plans show that private firms are only interested in stripping away work which will make easy money. The postal districts the company wants are in central areas with lots of business addresses.

Hays will collect, sort and deliver mail within these areas, but anything that has to go outside Hays’s postal districts-which costs money to move and deliver-will be handed over to Royal Mail. In addition to the Hays proposals, postal workers have been told by local bosses that there are definite proposals to give management of the new mail centre at Bromley-by-Bow in east London to a private operator, Siemens.

Another big battle is coming soon in the post. Rank and file workers showed during the recent unofficial strike that they have the power to throw back attacks from the Post Office.

Now the networks that delivered that action have to be strengthened and expanded. Activists also need to develop the political challenge to New Labour’s priorities.

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