By Charlie Kimber
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Exclusive Royal Mail’s plan to close two out of three London mail centres

This article is over 13 years, 10 months old
Royal Mail bosses plan to close two of London’s three giant mail centres and a major delivery office.
Issue 2214

Royal Mail bosses plan to close two of London’s three giant mail centres and a major delivery office.

The slash and burn scheme would mean thousands of job losses—some of them compulsory—and would clear the way for privatisation.

Management have met a small group of union reps across London to tell them of their outline proposals—but insisted that before they entered the room they sign a pledge not to reveal the details due to “commercial secrecy”.

Bosses now have made clear they are likely to recommend the closure of two of the three mail centres—Mount Pleasant in central London, Nine Elms in south London and Bow Locks in East London—plus the Rathbone Place delivery office.

An official announcement will come on 3 September and the CWU will then have just 90 days to come up with alternative plans—although they will be expected to demonstrate at least equal “savings”.

Work from the closed offices would be redeployed to the one remaining centre and to mail centres on the edge of London such as Croydon, Greenford and Hounslow.

Some staff could be offered redeployment to follow the work—although it would require long journeys. But the overall headcount would collapse as management demand stringent “efficiencies”.

And those deemed as excess will face compulsory redundancy.

Management have met union reps from each of the threatened offices on their own.

This was an effort to encourage a desperate competition to “win out” over others. But the reps have maintained a united front of saying they cannot possibly cover the work and that all the centres should stay open.

This is absolutely right—management would ruthlessly exploit any splits. Everyone needs to stick together, fight to keep all the mail centres open and to defend jobs.

As well as the present scheme, bosses intend to close all of London’s mail centres by 2016

Sell off

The plan is disastrous socially, economically and environmentally. It will destroy thousands of jobs, the service to the public will get worse and vast amounts of mail will have to be trucked across the capital with increased congestion and emissions.

It is based on figures for a fall in mail traffic that do not stand up to scrutiny and claims about the productivity of London workers that do not compare like with like.

In reality mail bosses are simply carrying through their own version of the cuts agenda that will see the remaining staff pressured to work harder and harder.

The plan is inseparable from the push towards privatisation. Once Royal Mail reduces its network the way will be open to parasites such as TNT and Business Post to fill the gap.

It’s expected that London CWU officials will soon launch a big political and industrial campaign.

But management will try to use against them the agreement signed earlier this year to end the national dispute. This said, “It is recognised when rationalisation of the mail centre network takes place in a cost-effective way that there will be a resultant reduction in jobs.”

And the notorious clause 6.11 adds “Following the above decision [about closures] being announced the CWU will accept the decision, jointly support the implementation and deal with the employee impact.”

Managers—and some CWU officials—are interpreting this as a no-strike deal.

However, the deal also says, “Project timetables must include sufficient time at all stages of the process to allow meaningful consultation, discussions and negotiations with the union to take place appropriately in line with this framework.”

This has clearly not been followed in London and therefore, unless bosses back off, there is no obstacle to a strike ballot and hard-hitting industrial action.

Workers must not allow their futures to be sacrificed on the altar of the national deal. Nor must the closure of “just one” centre be accepted as an alternative to the closure of two.

London’s postal service and the fate of its workers is at stake. But this is part of a national process.

Across Britain managers are either in the process of forcing through closures or have already done it.

Work at Crewe’s sorting office ends soon with the mail moved to Warrington. Management will run a shuttle bus from Crewe to Warrington, but many of the workers who have grudgingly accepted voluntary redundancy are refusing to budge.

One of them told the Crewe Chronicle, “It’s terrible. They are going to do us out of 90 days redundancy money unless we go to Warrington.

“But we’ve told the bosses in no uncertain terms we won’t go there. There’s an awful atmosphere here—people are ready to tear heads off.”

It’s time for a fightback. It needs to be firmly rooted in the defence of a public service as well as jobs and the environment.

If London fights, and get support from the rest of the union, it can give hope to others.

Note to Royal Mail bullies: this article is based on management sources and no CWU member was involved.

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