POSTAL workers due to decide on strike action to save the Post Office deserve the fullest possible support from across the country.
While CWU members at the Post Office face a handful of specific threats — including the closure of directly managed “Crown” offices, job losses in these branches and elsewhere, and attacks on workers’ pensions — the union is clear-sighted as to what these decisions mean overall.
“The Post Office as we know it is on the brink of extinction,” says CWU general secretary Dave Ward. “It is clear that the board’s plan is one of closure, redundancy and cost-cutting on an epic scale which will permanently undermine this great British institution.”
The signs are especially troubling and remind this paper of previous campaigns to run down public services so they can be sold off on the cheap.
Axing jobs and short-changing Post Office staff by switching from a defined-benefit scheme to defined contributions are tactics that have been deployed often before the privatisations of the past 40 years.
The same goes for the closure of branches, cutting the link to local communities in an effort to make the service more attractive to profiteers.
Government cuts have put the Post Office into a “straitjacket,” Ward has told CWU members, while “the only strategy we are seeing from the management is one of managed decline.” A decline that we fear will end with an exit from the public sector entirely.
The CWU’s plan for a ballot and the strong declaration at its conference this year for a proper postal network show that workers understand the service’s true importance.
And when Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn addressed the CWU conference he got straight to the point: postal workers are the “real lifeblood of our communities,” “seen as a friend” by local people and, “if we lose high street post offices, we’ve lost something pioneers fought to get.”
“The bean-counters in our government don’t understand the importance of human interaction,” he said. For ministers are mad for the market: if something can make money for a privileged few, then so it should. It is an attitude at odds with that of those who work for public services — and in fact the broad mass of the public.
Postal services and their workers help hold our communities together. Yet they have been run into the ground, carved up and fed to the fat cats.
Yet the Post Office — and its natural partner the Royal Mail, savagely torn away — could be so much more than what we see today, with any remaining vitality thanks to dedicated workers.
Brought fully back into the public sector, given much-needed investment and made a beacon for others, it would shine a light on our path to a better society. This goes for so many other services on the chopping block or already axed.
Thankfully in Corbyn we have a Labour leader who sees how excellent public services enrich all of our lives, and in John McDonnell a shadow chancellor who places them at the heart of the party’s economic strategy.
They and their allies grasp the problems facing Britain and handle them directly. Their opponents in the Labour Party do not and so promise unspecified “new and exciting ideas,” desperate to return to politics as a game of style.
We cannot afford this. Those forced to use foodbanks cannot afford this. Those on zero-hours contracts cannot afford this.
Those spending huge chunks of their wages on housing or childcare or transport cannot afford this. Those waiting weeks for a GP appointment cannot afford this.