Scratching the Surface: Posties, Privatisation and Strikes in the Royal Mail by Phil Chadwick (Zero Books, £14.99)
IF YOU were in any doubt that Royal Mail and its workforce have been continually subjected to mismanagement and treated as a political football by successive governments, this book will dispel any such thoughts.
Phil Chadwick, who spent much of his 30 years with the Post Office representing the Communication Workers Union locally and regionally, has produced a highly informative and interesting view from the front line which sets the record straight.
He painstakingly describes the systematic destruction of a much-loved great British industry and years of appalling industrial relations.
The first airings of privatisation had arisen during the Thatcher years but despite a crucial lack of investment the workforce continued to create a highly profitable and efficient Royal Mail throughout the 1990s. 1998-9 was a notable high point, with
profits reaching £496m and the workplace relatively stable.
There were still two deliveries a day, Sunday collections, the price of a stamp was low by any comparison and even the pension fund was in surplus.
Then, just 12 months later, despite more mail being posted, a huge loss was recorded, with most of it caused by the colossal £571m write-off of a failed IT scheme for Post Office counters.
What followed, Labour’s Postal Services Act of 2000 and the disastrously managed Consignia and PostComm periods, began a concerted drive to privatise Royal Mail while effectively prohibiting it from competing on a level playing field.
Throughout this time the workforce endured persistent crisis management, instability, job losses, industrial disputes and perennial bullying and harassment.
All of which culminated in last year’s hideously botched sell-off. Royal Mail’s death warrant had been prepared by Labour and signed off by the coalition government. The nation, and especially the postal service’s employees, have paid a hideous price.
The grotesque experiment, as this book tellingly shows, wrecked our postal service and must be reversed. Essential reading.