CWU must take action to stop post office closures

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2,500 POST OFFICES are to be closed by 2009 and all that the CWU post office workers union is doing about this massacre is pleading with the government not to do it.

The attitude of the CWU leaders is the exact opposite to that of the working class. There is a vast opposition to the closures.

Alistair Darling yesterday tried to appease this opposition with a number of petty and derisory measures. There are to be 500 outlets for small, remote communities such as mobile post offices and services based in village halls, community centres and pubs.

Darling, set to close thousands of post offices, said: ‘Our strategy aims to protect the national network, equipping it to meet the challenge of today.’

This pledge is absolutely worthless since everybody knows that Labour intends to privatise what is left after the 2,500 closures, along with the Royal Mail.

Just as worthless is the government’s new ‘access criteria’ for the post office network. This is that ‘90 per cent of the population should be within a mile of a post office’. The cynical key words in this shabby attempt at deception are ‘should be’.

There is a world of difference between what should be and what is going to be.

The mass closures are to begin next summer and will continue for 18 months, reducing the size of the network to about 11,760 post offices.

In fact, this demise of the post office system has been planned by the Labour government. Its decision to pay pensions and child benefits directly into bank accounts was in reality a decision to prepare the way to close thousands of post offices.

In the face of this massive attack, the CWU yesterday called for the consultation exercise to be used to ensure that the Post Office is given real government support for the future.

Andy Furey, Assistant Secretary CWU, said: ‘The British public fully understands and appreciates the critical social role post offices play in our communities. It is crucial that the government also fully appreciate this role and ensure long term viability of this national asset.

‘To provide that financial viability, the government must bring back government services to post offices. Without these, the viability of the service is damaged.

‘In addition, the consultation exercise must be used to find a genuine and effective replacement for the Post Office Card Account (POCA), operated by The Post Office. The government has an obligation to provide banking services for those people financially excluded either by High Street Banks or by location. The Post Office is the logical vehicle for this and providing banking services would fulfil both a political commitment and an important and sustainable future for the Post Office network’.

Andy Furey continued: ‘If the government is committed to this national public asset they must start by committing to a strategy that ensures The Post Office is the gateway for government services.’

The CWU knows only too well that the government, which includes its ex-general secretary Alan Johnson, is most definitely not committed ‘to this national public asset’, and has not got the slightest intention of making the Post Office ‘the gateway for government services’.

Rather, it intends to slam the door shut, and continue its closure programme and then privatise what is left, along with the Royal Mail, which is now being opened up to massive competition by international monopolies under the most disadvantageous conditions.

What the CWU needs is a new leadership. One that is prepared to break with its long standing support for Labour governments right or wrong.

Instead of watching and waiting for the axe to fall on the Post Office network and the Royal Mail, the union must be mobilised to take strike action to defend the hundreds of thousands of jobs that are under threat.

In fact, The CWU needs to organise a public sector alliance to stop the privatisation drive by defeating the Blair government.

This means bringing the government down and going forward to a workers’ government that will carry out socialist policies.This is the only way to save the Post Office and the Royal Mail.