From today’s Guardian
After all this time and lost money we want to get something out of the strike. So when we heard rumours that it was going to be called off, we were worried. It seems plain from the attitude of Adam Crozier and other Royal Mail senior management that they are not yet ready to compromise.
They have employed 30,000 temporary workers to clear the backlog (apparently not strike breaking in a legal sense), they have sent individual letters to us saying they will help us to cross the picket line, and Crozier has appeared on TV telling us to shut up and get back to work. For the union to call off the strike now would therefore be seen as a big error – people in my office were saying if this happened we would have been on strike for nothing, and there was talk of leaving the union.
Interviewed on TV, spokespeople for the Royal Mail seem rigid, while union spokespeople come across as reasonable. But “reasonable” doesn’t go down so well with me and many other posties. Royal Mail have been imposing job cuts, tearing up terms and conditions ruthlessly and indicate every desire to keep going. While they say they have achieved their savings this year they also say they will start cutting jobs again in January. Management is clearly on the offensive, and has been for years. We need to push them back a bit.
The Tories, we’ve now learned, want to fully privatise the postal service. They say they hope the union is beaten in the present dispute so that Royal Mail is more attractive to private bidders. Even though Peter Mandelson was forced to back down earlier this year, part-privatisation remains Labour official policy. Privatisation will only make our plight worse. It could see a “preferred bidder” such as TNT take control – the same TNT that recently imposed pay cuts on both its Dutch and UK staff “because of the recession”. But privatised or not, Royal Mail is already run on market principles, aiming for the same cost and service cutting approach as its competitors.
The catastrophic failure of unregulated financial markets saw the state ride to the rescue, and yet Ken Clarke, Peter Mandelson and Crozier remain wedded to the dogma that led to that collapse – an unquestioning belief that everyone and everything should bend to serve the drive for profits. But the post office is not just a “business”. With its universal service obligation (one-price stamp for all) it is an essential piece of social infrastructure that people rely on and feel affection for. Yet more and more a commercialised Royal Mail means posties and the service they provide must be sacrificed on the altar of “efficiency” (that is, profit).
Regrettably, even union leaders have bought into the logic of humans as resources in the modernising mission, instead of taking the obvious, simple line that the post office could be defended as a public service, and that the terms and conditions of posties should be defended. Meanwhile ordinary postmen, like workers in other industries, are staring down the barrel of job cuts and intensification of work – we are just trying to survive.
“It can’t be bargained with, it can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity or remorse or fear, and it absolutely will not stop – ever, until you are dead.” Those words are uttered in the film Terminator to describe the automaton assassin. But they just about fit the way posties see the Royal Mail and the government right now. We won’t give up, though. We are mobilised, and hopefully we are showing that when you are attacked it is possible to fight back – it’s what we all need to do.