Workplace News: CWU
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Say no to privatisation
The New Labour government seems determined to defy the laws of economic gravity by trying to part-privatise Royal Mail at a time when thousands of private companies across the world are going bust as a result of the world economic crash.
The very companies lined up to cherry-pick off the most profitable parts of the postal service are in the proverbial brown stuff. TNT, the Dutch-based company expected to take over up to 30% of Royal Mail are shedding 1,000 jobs as a result of declining profits. In marked contrast, Royal Mails profits have almost doubled in the past year, even though it is legally obliged to service every part of Northern Ireland and Britain! It makes absolutely no economic sense to privatise any part of Royal Mail. Yet, the unelected Business Minister Lord Peter Mandelson, better known as the Prince of Darkness still insists that Royal Mail will have to be part-privatised.
Postal workers can take advantage of the crisis New Labour finds itself in. There is huge opposition to privatisation of postal services. With opposition to the government at an all-time high due to it’s pro-rich and anti-working class policies, not to mention the MP expenses scandal, now is the time to step up the pressure to force the Government to abandon this deeply unpopular measure.
Royal Mail has now announced plans to introduce a pay freeze for it’s 181,000 workers which will mean a cut in pay, especially for the low paid. Postal workers should refuse to accept this. Royal Mail made £321million profit last year – there is no justification for pay cuts.
Postal workers should also demand that their union the Communication Workers’ Union (CWU) stops funding the Labour Party. Postal workers donate £1million a year to a party which long ago walked away from the idea of representing the interests of workers. If you took away the names of the main parties it would be impossible to differentiate between them – their policies are identical: sleaze, privatisation, cuts, job losses, bail-outs for the rich… The list goes on.
It’s time the trade unions withdrew support for New Labour, and for that matter also stopped propping up the parties in power in the Assembly who also share the same economic madness of privatisation. Instead we need new mass parties of the working class which stands for a socialist solution to the economic crisis of capitalism and the madness of privatisation.
The Communication Workers Union Clerical Branch in Northern Ireland has proposed a motion to the annual conference in May to re-nationalise British Telecom.
The Socialist spoke to David Bell, proposer of the motion and branch secretary of the CWU NI Clerical Branch.
“BT announced last November 10,000 jobs (or 6% of the workforce) were to be lost. The reason for the massive job losses isn’t because these workers are no longer needed it is because BT want to lower costs so they can increase profits. BT share prices rocketed 12% on the day they announced the job losses.”
“Chief executive Ian Livingston has admitted that BT has a deficit in its pension fund of £5billion. In May 2007, BT announced a £1billion surplus in their pension scheme yet in less than 2 years this has plummeted to a £5billion shortfall!”
“Our union needs to fight for the re-nationalisation of BT so jobs can be protected and the profits being made by BT are used to develop the service for the public good, not to enrich shareholders.”
Royal Mail: Action needed to stop privatisation
By Kevin Henry, April 2009
Lord Peter Mandelson’s plans to sell off 30% of Royal Mail and allow for up to 49.9% to be privatised, are facing mass opposition. A recent poll carried out by the Communication Workers Union shows 75% of the public oppose privatisation.
Yet this government is determined to push it through. Proving once again the capitalist nature of New Labour, the government has ushered in private companies to take over our postal service. Since December, the global logistics company, TNT, has expressed interest in cherry picking over 30% of the postal service. This company has already used the anti-worker EU Directives to undermined national minimum wage agreements for postal workers in Germany and has cut over one thousand jobs worldwide. Mandelson has also tried to intimidate workers into accepting privatisation by threatening that pensions will be halved if the service isn’t sold. Yet the £9 billion pension deficit is a result of successive government’s failure to contribute to the pension fund, not the failure of postal workers.
The Socialist Party stands for full investment in our postal services and for Royal Mail to be run democratically by postal workers, elected representatives from the trade unions and those representing the wider interests of customers.
Postal workers and the general public however cannot rely on a backbench revolt to defeat this creeping privatisation. The government can rely on Tory and Liberal Democrats to push through this Bill and the majority of Labour MP’s who have expressed opposition are doing so for there own opportunist reasons. Most are not opposed to privatisation on principle. The CWU sponsored Peter Hain for example had no problem trying to privatise the water service in Northern Ireland. A campaign of industrial action from the CWU linked to community support can defeat Mandelson’s plans. At the same time the CWU should stop funding the Labour Party. The CWU gives £1 million a year to the Labour Party, which has only led to further undermining of jobs and conditions. Last December, the CWU handed over £53,000 of members money, only days before the publication of the government report that recommended part-privatisation. The leadership of the CWU must keep its conference pledge to break the link with Labour, if they do not rule out privatisation. Instead, the political fund would be better spent in supporting the formation of a new working class party which stood up for workers as strongly as the Tories, Lib Dems and the Labour Party does for big business.