CWU Conference

Submitted by AWL on 28 June, 2002 - 10:51

Not "how many redundancies?" but "what sort of service?"
By a postal worker

In the face of threats of massive redundancies in the Post Office, our union's response has been sadly lacking in vision and has squandered opportunities. Instead of raising the call to "fight for a decent job for all postal workers" we heard once again "avoid compulsory redundancies".

Many now see redundancies as inevitable, so the task becomes damage limitation. But this is only because of the lack of any serious campaign by Head Office to mobilise members and the public to save jobs and defend the service.

Constituency Labour Parties, community groups and many backbench MPs were itching to do battle with Postcomm and New Labour when the regulator's plans were unleashed. The CWU needed to play a central role in organising the feelings of outrage against privatisation. So far it has failed. All that has been achieved by a lacklustre campaign is a stay of execution of one year.

The Post Office say the corporation needs to make £1.2 billion of savings. They admit that the PO board has made mistakes yet they say that staff - as many as one in three on delivery - will have to pay the price with their jobs.

They have created an atmosphere of gloom and despair that encourages workers to think of their future in terms of "voluntary redundancy".

But it is the union leadership that has implicitly accepted this twisted logic of making hardworking and long suffering postal workers pick up the tab, by accepting defeat in advance over "voluntary redundancies".

It is as if we have learnt nothing from the experience of BT where mass redundancies (always "voluntary" at first) were the means to decimation of the public service.

The socialist answer to failing public services is to tax the rich and their profits, not to throw workers on the scrap heap. Yet the best that our General Secretary can come up with is to chime in with the Post Office's demand for a price rise.

Is this how we win the public to our cause? Other European countries have higher postal charges, but that has been the price of privatisations that we are meant to be opposing. Price rises will hit "unprofitable" social mail.

The Post Office has been trying to appease the "blue chip customers" and junk mail merchants for far too long by overloading postal workers with wasteful commercial mail delivered for a pittance. It is time for public service to be our main priority.

"Bucking the market" would be going against the prevailing tide of New Labour and the European Commission's neoliberal agenda. But if we join other workers fighting privatisation here and across Europe our movement can win real victories.

Support public ownership

At this year's General Conference we will get the opportunity to discuss the reaffirmation of our union policy on the public utilities. We will have the chance to bring our policy on public ownership of telecoms into line with our pro public ownership stance on the future of the Post Office.

The motion from Central London Branch is timely. The crisis in the telecom industry worldwide is evidence of the failure of liberalisation and privatisation. The price that is paid for this failure is mass redundancies and a cutting back on services for telecoms customers. The CWU should make clear where it stands on the principle of public ownership of telecoms. Vote for motion 31.

Political fund

We face a situation where our class has been politically disenfranchised. It is no surprise that the most important debate at General Conference is on the Political Fund.

Unfortunately the debate is being posed around motion 104 which proposes disaffiliation from the Labour Party, but neglects to say where the money should go instead. This does nothing to address the central problem of the political fund - lack of democracy and accountability. It could easily fuel anti-political tendencies in the union which say we don't need a political fund at all, or should pick-and-mix support for individual politicians, Lib-Dem, Tory, nationalist, or New Labour, who seem friendlier.

We therefore recommend you oppose motion 104. We support motion 106 which calls for affiliation to Labour on the minimum amount in order to retain a voice in the party structures, but to spend the remainder of the fund on "political campaigning around issues of concern to the CWU."

If it is reached in debate, we urge you to support motion 110 since this sets strict criteria for supporting candidates in elections, including opposition to all forms of privatisation.

Whatever the policy we chose at Blackpool, we need to step up the political campaign against privatisation and integrate it with the industrial campaign for decent jobs and a service based on the needs of working class people, backed up by strike action where necessary.

The support for us is out there, if only we try and harness it.

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