Will the postal service be privatised?

Submitted by Janine on 14 May, 2005 - 10:47

By a CWU member

Hardly had the last election result been counted, and the Chair of Royal Mail, Allan Leighton, began to call for a share issue and employee buyout for the ailing firm. He says he wants to pump ÂŁ2 billion extra investment into the postal industry. His proposals, as far as they have been made clear, assume a part-privatisation of Royal Mail. The CWU has written to all MPs saying it opposes such proposals.

This is not the first time that Allan Leighton has tried to set Labour’s agenda for the future of the Post Office. The “Warwick Agreement” between the Labour-affiliated unions and the Government in the summer of 2004 resulted in a committment in Labour’s manifesto to “no plans” to privatise the Post Office. After then Leighton issued press statements saying that new top managers in Royal Mail were to be vetted as to their commitment to privatisation! Leighton really doesn’t like the unions to have a say in Government policy, no matter now small and feeble that say.

The Government minister who will deal with this issue is none other than Alan Johnson, ex General Secretary of the CWU. He has already said he is favour of an employee share ownership scheme. As the General Secretary of the UCW (the postal union that preceded the CWU), he was instrumental in getting the union to commit to the policy of “commercial freedom”.

This policy was an acceptance of a neo-liberal model of competition within the postal sector whilst retaining a publically owned Post Office.

The consequences of this inherently unstable situation are now coming home to roost. We have seen increased productivity pressures on workers, leading to the Single Delivery Agreement, 10,000 job cuts and now the threat of part privatisation.

The extra investment in the Post Office that is needed to drive up quality of service and workers’ pay and conditions could be delivered by the Government, if they had the will and the commitment to Royal Mail as a public service.

The current General Secretary of the CWU, Billy Hayes has produced an alternative plan for the postal service, “Delivering Quality”, that calls for public investment. The CWU needs to campaign against the Leighton “proposals” and make the case for public investment in a successful service wholly retained in the public sector. The CWU and other unions need to renew their demands that utilities and industries serving the public ought to be collectively planned and democratically controlled. We need an alternative to the current liberalising regime of regulation from the Labour Government.

The issue of the possible privatisation of Royal Mail will be centre stage at the 2005 CWU Conference in June where once again there will be demands to disaffiliate from the Labour Party.

An emergency motion to that conference says:

“Conference therefore instructs the National Executive to obtain from Royal Mail and the Government via the General Secretary a clear unequivocal statement that is in line with the Labour Party manifesto commitment that the Post Office will remain in the public sector as a wholly publicly owned company.

“Failure to achieve such a statement and commitment by 1 September 2005 will be viewed as an attack on the pensions, job security and working conditions of the members employed in the Post Office and will be resisted by all means at the union’s disposal including a national ballot of the membership of the Post Office.

“In addition, if the Labour Government fails to honour its manifesto commitment all monies to the Labour Party will be suspended from the l September 2005 and the CWU will use the Political Fund monies to actively campaign amongst the CWU membership and general public to retain a publicly owned Post office within the Public Sector.”

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