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From The Socialist newspaper, 21 January 2009

Hands off Royal Mail

No privatisation

Postal workers on strike, photo Socialist Party

Postal workers on strike, photo Socialist Party

Postal workers across the country reacted with dismay and anger when the Hooper review of Royal Mail was published in December 2008. It is nothing more than a declaration of war against postal workers and our union, the Communication Workers Union (CWU).

Gary Clark, Sub Area rep Scotland No.2 branch CWU

One of the main recommendations is the introduction of private finance and management to "manage change" or, in real terms, privatise. At least 49% will be sold off. As the union says, this could lead to around 50,000 jobs losses and half the mail centres could face closure.

This is at time when we have seen public ownership back on the agenda, with major banks nationalised. But the New Labour government's view is that only private finance can run this vital service. There has been no turnaround by New Labour. The nationalisation of parts of the finance sector is only an emergency measure and not a desired change of policy.

Some Labour MPs are disgusted by cabinet member Peter Mandelson's complete disregard of Labour Party policy, which is committed to a publicly owned postal service. Over 90 have signed an early-day motion committing the government to stand by their manifesto.

But these attacks will not be defeated by the back-benchers. It will take a movement of postal workers, along with a major public campaign. The CWU should now be calling demonstrations across the country, explaining the effect on the public service and at the same time preparing the ground for a national dispute against privatisation.

We have also seen great play being made of our pensions being underwritten by the government. This is only the money stolen by previous governments. What it does not highlight is a complete change in the scheme from a final salary one to a career average one and an increase in the retirement age from 60 to 65. We will have to work five extra years for a worse pension.

Hidden away in the report is a statement that postal workers are 20% overpaid compared to market pay levels, echoing what Royal Mail bosses Leighton and Crozier (wages over 1 million a year) were saying during the national dispute.

But this is something the management have jumped on, openly stating there will be no pay rise this year and this after only a 1.5% increase last year. This is an attack on the living standards of postal workers whose basic pay is low. This must be challenged and fought.

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