Swindon Trades Union Council: Media Release 11th October 2007
Gordon Brown’s comments on the postal dispute in Prime Minister’s question time were no great surprise. But it gave the lie to any idea that the government was ‘above the fray’. There is no justification for the continuation of the dispute he said. Brown nailed his colours to the mast demanding that postal workers go back on the terms of Royal Mail management.
CWU members will be justifiably angry with Brown’s comments. The crisis in the Postal Service is the result of two things:
· ‘liberalisation’ of postal services by the European union.
· the Blair/Brown government’s enthusiasm for that liberalisation. They introduced full competition earlier than the EU timescale.
Whilst the government pledged that they would not privatise Royal Mail, they were in fact privatising the work by opening up the public service to competition. As with the NHS they rigged the so-called competition by forcing RM to deliver the mail of their competitors to the door. The private companies do not have to bear the cost of the infrastructure necessary for a national mail service.
What users of the service should understand is that the government’s undermining of the public service will lead to increases in prices and potentially the end of the universal service obligation by which mail is charged standard prices however far it has to travel. What is at stake in the strike action, therefore, is not just the wages and working conditions of postal workers, but the service that they provide. Were the CWU to lose the dispute then RM would continue to make cuts which would worsen the service. Because the government demands they act like a business their prime interest is not the service they provide but the profit they make.
The aims of the management are to drive down wages to the level of their competitors (25% lower) and to introduce an industrial dictatorship of ‘complete flexibility’ whereby a cowed workforce does whatever the management instructs them to do. This might be alteration of start times, alteration of the length of the day, and workers doing whatever job they are told to do. To achieve this management are seeking to break the strength of the union in defending its members terms and conditions of service.
Brown, of course, is a great believer in ‘flexibility’ which has meant in British industry the growth of low paid jobs and an atmosphere of fear in the workplace amongst workers. Brown’s picture opportunity with Thatcher was not just to embarrass Cameron. The Blair/Brown government maintained much of her anti-union legislation. They have supported the stacking of the legal cards against the trades unions.The CWU members deserve the support of trades unionists and service users alike because they are defending the post office as a public service as well as standing up against the sort of industrial bullying that became so common in the Thatcher years, and has continued under ‘free market’ New Labour.
Secretary Swindon TUC
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