Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/493/2562
'We're fighting back'
On Saturday 23 June, Gloucester postal workers showed their determination not to accept Royal Mail's plans to close the city's mail centre. Hundreds of Communication Workers Union (CWU) members marched in protest. They were joined by representatives from around the country including from Coventry, Reading and Paddington where mail centres are also under threat of closure.
This show of support gave an important boost to CWU members who are taking strike action on 29 June. Doug Gwilt (CWU afternoon distribution rep at Gloucester mail centre) commented: "I support strike action, we'll keep fighting to retain the jobs and in real terms we haven't had a pay deal in five years. Basic pay has gone up but all allowances have gone down."
Royal Mail plans to make £60 million savings over ten years by closing Gloucester and Reading mail centres, transferring work to Swindon, where £20 million will be spent on an extension. Insanely, Gloucester mail would travel to Swindon and then back to Gloucester to be delivered. As John Ellis (CWU early morning shift rep at Gloucester mail centre) said to the socialist: "This is slash and burn to generate as much cash as possible. Their policy is to see what properties they own and sell them and if it affects quality of service, to deal with that later."
Royal Mail wants to run the postal service as a business and is making cuts and savings to compete with private mail companies. In Gloucester, the CWU have submitted alternative plans to closing the mail centre to Royal Mail, including extending the centre so it could accommodate the proposed new technology or building a brand new centre at another location in the city.
As yet there has been no response from Royal Mail, but the closure plans have been put back at least a year to 2009. The CWU calculates the closures would mean at least £10 million a year will be lost to the Gloucester economy through lost wages alone and two million miles a year would be added in extra road journeys. Paul Trehearne (CWU Gloucester branch secretary) told the socialist: "The ill conceived plans to close Gloucester mail centre will be fought."
Local Labour MPs are supporting the campaign against closure but it is their government that is trying to drive through the privatisation of the postal service. A local Tory spoke at the rally but when plans for closure were first announced he said the site would make a nice retail unit!
CWU general secretary Billy Hayes told the rally that we can defeat privatisation of the postal industry and the mail centre closures if we stand together and fight. Determined CWU members could hold back the massive attacks on the postal service, but they will need the support of other workers and the public. With local government, school and hospital workers being offered a 2% pay deal, it is time for public sector unions to discuss united action.
Campaign for a New Workers' Party meeting
Monday 2 July, 7pm
Miners' Welfare Hall, Wesley Rd, Cinderford, Gloucestershire
In The Socialist 28 June 2007:
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