Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/247/24829
Fight The Bosses' Jobs Massacre
THE POST Office bosses' mass redundancy programme must be resisted. 40,000 workers, one-fifth of the total, face the sack because New Labour is letting greedy privateers carve up the postal delivery market and undermine the monopoly held by the Post Office since 1660.
50 Parcelforce depots are to be chopped, losing 6,700 jobs. The transport fleet will be cut by 2,500 vehicles and four mail delivery centres shut. 3,000 urban Post Offices will close, reducing even more local community facilities in some of the most deprived areas.
Patricia Hewitt, Trade and Industry secretary, welcomed the mass slaughter of jobs, saying the government has given the Post Office "commercial freedom". But even the Post Office's Chief Executive Officer John Roberts said: "This liberalisation will cost the Post Office £750 million".
Private sector companies are queuing to pick up the pieces. TNT, DHL, UPS, with a record of total hostility to unions, will be the first to move into the market from next month. The postal regulator is opening up the market for bulk delivery of business letters as a prelude to the whole letter market being privatised.
The Post Office has made £2.5 billion in profits over 20 years and the privateers will get rich pickings from this. Of course they won't want to bring mail to your door for a 27p first class stamp - they'll demand "the market rate".
In all countries where postal services were privatised, there's been a huge increase in costs to ordinary working people. In New Zealand, 400 offices were shut and the price of stamps for outlying areas doubled.
Mass Action To Stop Privatisation
THE UNIONS must fight the bosses' plans. Unfortunately, at this stage, CWU general secretary Billy Hayes only says that they will strike if there's a threat of compulsory redundancies.
In an earlier interview with the Financial Times, he ruled out strike action against privatisation saying: "It didn't take strike action to convince the Conservative government to drop privatisation, it took political argument".
This self-limitation over the use of industrial action could be a big mistake unless the rank and file put mass pressure on the union leaders.
Firstly, by limiting strike action to compulsory redundancies, it allows the Post Office maximum room for manoeuvre against the workers.
If members see that their union isn't serious about defending every job, then they will be open to all the pressures that the bosses put on them.
The Post Office has £2 billion in reserves and they are already setting aside £400 million "for generous severance packages".
Where will future generations of workers get jobs if there's no fight to protect the ones we have today? By ruling out mass industrial action now, it will be much harder to mobilise to defend jobs in a recession.
Of course the Post Office may well demand compulsory redundancies, for example in Parcelforce. They say that workers in the depots earmarked for closure will be offered alternative jobs.
But in the last round of closures in Parcelforce there was much anger and opposition to the alternative jobs that workers were being offered. Now this will be much worse as ten times as many places are closing.
Contrary to what Billy Hayes believes, political pressure on the New Labour government will not be sufficient.
In 1993/4 the Tory government toyed with the idea of Post Office privatisation by selling it wholesale to the private sector not just, as this government proposes, by letting the private sector move into the market.
The threat to rural Post Offices put the fear of god into Tory MPs who faced losing their majorities. That caused a U-turn by John Major's government.
Also the threat by the National Association of Sub Post Masters to oppose the closure stopped the Tory government. Now the same organisation has welcomed the deregulation of the market by the Postal regulator.
The postal unions, led by the CWU, should organise a mass demonstration against the whole programme of closures, job losses and privatisation, thus ensuring that the full strength of the unions is turned to this task.
Billy Hayes should send out an appeal for the whole trade union movement to get behind them in defence of the public sector. This demo should be a prelude to organising strike action in defence of jobs. Now is the time to act.
The 15-Minute Strike
POSTAL WORKERS were supposed to be on one-day strike over pay on 27 March but the CWU Postal Executive decided to make it a 15-minute strike, only in Mail Centres.
By A London postal worker
Now, in a strike dubbed Monty Python's flying picket, only Area Reps will go on strike for 15 minutes on 27 March. Union reps commented: "What do they expect me to do? Stand outside with a flag?"
CWU negotiators say they aren't accepting management's offer, because, even after consolidation of bonuses, we wouldn't achieve £300 a week pensionable pay in October 2003.
Echoing Consignia management, they cite Postcom's attack on the monopoly as a reason for not going on strike, but our inaction won't save the monopoly and universal service.
The CWU leaders say the "industrial action" is to "validate the ballot" under the anti-trade-union laws, and that Consignia management have agreed to recognise this, but might management not change their minds?
The socialist calls for:
- Strike action in defence of all Post Office jobs.
- Oppose privatisation - stop the sabotage of the public sector.
- For a national demonstration against the job slaughter in the Post Office.
- For a one-day public sector strike against New Labour's whole privatisation programme.
In The Socialist 29 March 2002: