Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/812/18660
Privatisation threatens postal service
Communication Workers Union lobby of parliament over the privatisation of Royal Mail, photo Paul Mattsson
Robert McArdle, CWU member, South Mids Postal (Coventry)
On the very week Royal Mail reported a 12% rise in operating profits to £671 million, the newly privatised company was complaining about 'market competition' from the likes of TNT.
It's ironic that directors at Royal Mail recently toured the country seeking to convince workers that 'external investment' was the only way forward for Britain's postal service.
As we have highlighted in the Socialist, privatising Royal Mail would be a big mistake for the public. And now, within months of its undervalued sell-off, the threat to the universal postal service is again on the agenda.
The daily delivery service to the 29 million homes and businesses is threatened because competitor companies like TNT cherry-pick end to end delivery in places like London and Liverpool.
The industry regulator Ofcom responded by saying: "We would expect Royal Mail to take appropriate steps to respond to the challenge posed by competition, including improving efficiency." In reality this means increasing workloads and pressure on postal workers.
The threat of reducing the six-day delivery service would have a significant impact on jobs and services within Royal Mail.
It could also be used by management as a weapon to try and force through inferior working conditions and also have an impact on future pay deals.
Over the next few years we will see the battle lines being drawn between a management driven by market profits and the CWU union, who will need to defend their members against vicious cost-cutting attacks.
The historic deal that has just been signed by the CWU and Royal Mail protecting jobs and conditions, will be tested over the next two years. Postal workers are right to be concerned about their future once the agreed pay deal comes to an end. Thousands of jobs were lost at BT after privatisation of the telecoms company and those remaining workers have seen their terms and conditions weaken due to the 'partnership' between management and the CWU.
The lesson for postal workers is clear - they need the union to fight to protect the gains made over the years. Royal Mail bosses will continue their race to the bottom as they seek to increase profits for shareholders but the CWU will need to stay alert to the dangers of 'partnerships'. Workers' ultimate power lies in the ability to withdraw their labour as a last resort.
The solution for Royal Mail's difficulties is simple; take it back into public ownership. Then the postal service could be delivering a service based on public need not on private greed.
In The Socialist 28 May 2014:
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