By Robin Sivapalan
Dutch company TNT are shamelessly capitalising on the strike action to step up their plans to expand operations into the ‘last-mile’ section of the postal service. The outcome of TNT’s mercenary manoeuvring, whose success would signal another significant break-up of Royal Mail, will depend on the action or inaction on the part of Brown’s new government and the union movement.
Currently, rivals to the Royal Mail compete in the collection, sorting and distribution sections of the mail network but Royal Mail workers are used by all companies, to deliver 99% of letters on the last stretch, to our doorsteps. TNT has been running trials in Glasgow and Manchester to assess the viability of running their own delivery operations.
What this means is that TNT reckon on undercutting Royal Mail by using its own orange-clad delivery workforce, understood to be paid some 25% less than unionised Royal Mail workers.
The government, and the quango PostComm, are committed to liberalisation of the postal service at a faster pace than most of the rest of Europe, risking the decimation of a universal, flat-rate postal service to all parts of the UK. Postcomm, the government’s apparently independent regulators, whose only brief is to increase marketisation, is currently considering appeals by TNT to make access to the last mile a more profitable option for them.
While Royal Mail workers are set to escalate their dispute, in large part to stop the further disintegration of our national postal service, big companies are cynically shifting their contracts to competing companies; DX claims it will make 10 million because of the strike.
Tony Woodley, general secretary of the Transport and General Workers’ Union section of the new merged union, Unite, which is recognised by TNT, has written to all his members instructing them to not take on Royal Mail workers’ work. This basic act of union solidarity stands in stark contrast to Derek Simpson of the Amicus section of Unite, which represents the Communication Managers’ Association, who has remained conspicuously silent on the CWU’s dispute.
In the medium term, it is important that T&G/Unite organise a fight for TNT workers to level up their pay to at least match rates of Royal Mail workers, ultimately aiming to reintegrate the TNT workforce and operations back into a rationalised national postal service.