‘If Royal Mail managers don’t back off we are going to have to ask our members again to take strike action,’ Communication Workers Union (CWU) Deputy General Secretary Dave Ward told a Keep The Post Office Public rally on Saturday.
The packed rally came at the end of a 1,000-strong national march through Post Minister Pat McFadden’s Wolverhampton constituency, Bilston.
CWU delegations were present from across the country from Edinburgh through to Cornwall and the march was joined by Wolverhampton Unison local government branch and PCS MoD Cosford branch.
The lead banner read ‘Bilston Postworkers tell Gordon Brown and Pat McFadden Keep the Post Office Public.’
Marchers shouted ‘Royal Mail Not for Sale!’ and ‘Mandy, Mandy, Mandy – Out, Out Out!’
News Line spoke to several marchers before they set off.
Nottinghamshire CWU member James said: ‘This to me is about the accelerated closure of Mail Centres.
‘I don’t see the need for part-privatisation.
‘They said there is no alternative but I don’t agree with that. I don’t see the need for a private partner.
‘There are alternative packages being put forward.
‘One of our MPs is involved in an alternative scheme.
‘Mandelson seems to be hanging his reputation on part-privatisation and Brown is backing him up.
‘The CWU are negotiating with the government and MPs.
‘I think what the government are doing is a punishment for the 2007 strike, that it’s afraid of us.
‘The union is proposing to cut funding from the Labour Party.’
South East London CWU Area Rep Shelley Johnson said: ‘The situation is appalling – it’s double standards.
‘The government should let us have the money we need for our pension scheme and get rid of (Royal Mail chief executive) Adam Crozier.
‘But I think the government will force our hand and we will have to take industrial action.
‘We face Mail Centre closures in our area.
‘We will fight to remain the same service we now provide to the public.
‘We have to take the government on. It’s come to the point they’re not Labour any more.’
H. O’Harney, PCS MoD Cosford branch secretary, told News Line: ‘We’re fighting our own privatisation scheme, which is a £12bn PPP/PFI project to privatise defence training.
‘It’s the largest PFI project that’s been undertaken by the MoD.
‘We’ve come here to show solidarity with our colleagues in the CWU.
‘They are fighting privatisation at a time when we should be using taxpayers’ money to help the most vulnerable in society as opposed to making profit for corporate sharks that are involved in all these deals.
‘PCS have been working hard for a national day of action on these issues.
‘We need a national day of strike action coordinated by the TUC.
‘Every union should be involved in it.
‘Bailing out banks is ludicrous, we should be nationalising water, gas and electric.
‘They should all be brought back into public ownership, not just the banks.
‘They’re even using our money to bail out these PFI schemes.’
CWU member John Kenny from Wolverhampton District branch, added: ‘I’m furious about the sale of Royal Mail.
‘Pat McFadden should be tried for treason. He wants to get rid of 350 years of history.
‘The CWU should negotiate the way to modernise rather than sell the business off.
‘It would be reduced to a McDonalds-type firm if they sell it off.
‘The CWU has to take action to stop the privatisation.’
Sacked Burslem post worker, CWU member, former CWU rep, Paul Malyan said: ‘Privatisation is the road we don’t want, can’t afford to go down.
‘If they bring in part-privatisation, they’ll go all the way to full privatisation – it’s the obvious route.
‘In the current climate, they want to publicly own everything, the only thing the government want to sell off is Royal Mail, which is making a profit.
‘The government want to sell off the profit making side of it.
‘In the years to come, letters will be in trouble, you’ll be lucky to get a delivery.
‘All the promises about keeping the universal service – promises are often broken.
‘The union has no choice but to take action.
‘Other unions at the rally in London just recently said their support will be there. We should keep them at their word.
‘Even though we have our own personal struggle we are still fighting the fight nationally.’
CWU Northamptonshire branch chair Mark Batterham added: ‘The situation is unacceptable to postal workers across the country.
‘We see it as a dereliction of duty by any MP to go against Labour Party policy of keeping Royal Mail wholly publicly owned.
‘It can only be viewed as a betrayal of the British public in attempting part-privatisation of this great 350-year-old institution.
‘Any MP supporting Peter Mandelson in this betrayal is not fit to represent the people that elected them.
‘The CWU from Northamptonshire will actively campaign against any MP from any party that supports any privatisation of the Royal Mail whatsoever.
‘If the government goes through with it, industrial action is always a possibility.
‘We will fight for our jobs.’
Chairing the rally, CWU President Jane Loftus said: ‘From today we will be stepping up the campaign.
‘There will be more rallies and marches in all constituencies.
‘We need to keep our jobs and our service.’
Dave Jones, Wolverhampton and District CWU political officer said: ‘The Tories could not privatise Royal Mail, it’s a sad day when the Labour Party want to privatise it.
‘It’s a crying shame when the government want to bail out the banks, yet they say there’s no money for our pension deficit.
‘If they can bail out the banks, they can bail us out.
‘Privatisation is for the Fat Cats not the workers.
‘Divided, the Labour Party will fall but they won’t bring the CWU down.
‘Show the government they’ve picked a fight with the wrong people.’
CWU General Secretary Billy Hayes said he had phoned Derek Simpson and congratulated him on his re-election as Unite joint general secretary.
‘He told me “Billy we’re with you to make sure Royal Mail is not privatised.” ’
Hayes added: ‘Every Labour MP who refuses to support the party policy will be challenged.
‘We are going to march in every constituency from Land’s End to John O’Groats, every constituency whose MP won’t support us.
‘Privatisation was off the agenda. It’s back on the agenda because Peter Mandelson is back into government. This is about a man who believes in privatisation.’
Hayes went on to say: ‘We have no fear in saying to our members: do you want to give money to a party which is letting you down or say this is the end of the relationship.
‘We say to MPs: stop shilly-shallying – Royal Mail is not for sale.’
CWU Deputy General Secretary Dave Ward told the rally: ‘We are fighting a Labour government we supported that is out to destroy this industry and our jobs.’
He added: ‘We have to be credible with our members, with our relationship with the Labour Party.
‘With the Labour MPs who won’t support policy we have to be out there standing our own candidates in their constituencies, getting them out of office.
‘There is an alternative to the Labour Party: we have to make it happen. If they won’t do it we’ll do it ourselves.’
On modernisation, he said: ‘We have to embrace change but it can’t be change at any price.’
Ward continued: ‘Winning the battle isn’t just about winning public support.
‘We are going to have to engage our members in a fight.
‘There are battles coming up in every office.
‘At my old office, managers have called for 20 per cent efficiency savings.
‘If Royal Mail managers don’t back off, we are going to have to ask our members again to take strike action.’
He added: ‘Mandelson has suggested that if you don’t accept privatisation you are going to lose your pension.
‘We do not accept you have to deal with pensions and link it with privatisation.
‘The government must face up to its responsibilities – it’s not a bail-out; they owe us that money; it’s our members’ deferred pay.
‘We’re going to get that money by fighting for it.
‘They have got the money; the investment is there.’
He concluded his speech: ‘We have to mobilise the public against this government and we will win this campaign.’
TUC Regional Secretary Roger McKenzie brought greetings and support from the national TUC and TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber.
Other speakers included Labour MP Geraldine Smith, Bilston Labour councillor Bill Page, CWU Senior Deputy General Secretary Tony Kearns, Unite Regional Secretary Gerard Coyne, and Labour MEP Brian Simpson.
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