‘royal Mail – not for sale! Mandy, Mandy, Mandy – Out Out Out!’ chanted over 200 postal workers as they lobbied the heavily-fortified Labour Party Conference in Brighton on Tuesday.
The Communication Workers Union (CWU) lobby was to demand the Labour government keeps the Royal Mail public, and restores postal workers’ pensions.
During a reception after the lobby, Billy Hayes, the CWU general secretary, told union reps and members: ‘Thanks to you for your waging of industrial action. We are going to win this dispute.
‘We forced an emergency motion onto the agenda of the Labour Party Conference.
‘The Prime Minister is talking about a launch path for a general election.
‘I say to Brown: there is no launch path to a general election if you don’t take the people on the ground with you.
‘The government own Royal Mail. We’re watching them, and if they don’t come across, they’re in for a few surprises.’
Labour peer Tony Clark said: ‘We’re further back now than under the Major government.
‘It’s a disgrace that our Labour government did not pick up on the pensions.’
Dave Ward, CWU deputy-general secretary, also saluted the gathering.
He said: ‘We can’t believe how strong and resilient you are.
‘This is a bitter dispute, but you are making sacrifices now that will see a future in this industry.
‘The message is getting through.
‘We are the people that are defending public services.
‘What we need is to modernise the management of Royal Mail, some of the things they have done to you are below the belt.
‘I have never seen such bullying.’
He pledged: ‘There will be no resolution that is not satisfactory to you.’
He went on to condemn Adam Crozier and other Royal Mail directors for the amounts of money they are earning, and alleged that Business Secretary Peter Mandelson had engineered the Hooper Report.
He also attacked the government over its refusal to sort out the Royal Mail pension fund after it lost the Postal Services Bill to part-privatise Royal Mail.
He said to applause: ‘How can they lose this Bill and then do what they did to working people? I’ll never forgive the Labour government for that.’
He said there had to be a change in the managerial culture, where they think they can do no wrong.
He announced: ‘Your strike action has forced Royal Mail back to the table.
‘From tomorrow we have three days of talks.
‘We hope to find a resolution to end this dispute.’
Returning to the Labour Party, he warned: ‘It’s the last chance saloon. We can’t stand in front of our members and give money when they are kicking you in the teeth.
‘This is the last chance for Labour.’
He concluded: ‘If they turn their backs on us in the next week or so, we are going to have to do more than we’ve ever done to the Labour Party.’
Martin Walsh, Communication Workers Union London Divisional Representative, told News Line before the lobby: ‘We are sending a firm signal to the Labour government that they need to instruct Royal Mail management to stop the bullying and harassment and the cuts which are destroying the service.
‘We want it to call on Royal Mail to make a new national agreement on the future of the industry.’
Asked what he thought about Business Secretary Mandelson’s willingness to join a Tory government, Walsh responded: ‘I thought he was a Tory anyway.’
Walsh concluded: ‘We will continue taking strike action and deliver a big “yes’’ vote in the national ballot.
‘We are going to win this dispute.’
Tony Conway, a retired CWU member, from south-east London, said: ‘We filled our coach from London Bridge with 61 of us.
‘I am proud of the commitment of the membership in south-east London, they’ve been absolutely magnificent on the picket lines and at mass meetings and especially today.
‘We are here demonstrating against a Labour Party that is trying to break the link with the trade unions.
‘Most of the MPs have never even been members of a trade union, they don’t see the need for the link.’
Before handing in a giant postcard to the Labour conference centre, addressed to Prime Minister Brown, Jane Loftus, CWU president, led a lively lobby, shouting ‘Royal Mail not for sale!’ and ‘Mandy, Mandy, Mandy – out, out, out!’
As postal workers blew whistles, she said over the megaphone, ‘It is we, the postal workers, who fight for public services, who fight for jobs and services.
‘Let’s go on strike. Let’s defend every job.
‘We will win this dispute. We will keep our jobs.’
Billy Colvill, London SE15 CWU rep, told News Line: ‘The lobby was well represented from all over the south of England.
‘This firmly nails the lie that this is a London dispute.
‘We lobbied the Labour Party conference because our employer is this government and we are a public service.
‘The divisions that are occurring in the labour and trade union movement are between those who want to smash up public services and introduce cuts, and those who want to defend the living standards and rights of the working class.
‘For instance, the CWU has a situation where members of the Unite union are crossing picket lines and scabbing on our strike, ie Royal Mail managers.
‘How the CWU leadership can tolerate this, ordinary members don’t understand.
‘It’s the same with their support for this Labour government.
‘We will carry on our strikes and we’re asking, on the result of the national ballot, the union calls national action.’
Bipin Patel, from London SW1 Delivery Office told News Line: ‘Today has been successful.
‘We delivered our postcard and hopefully we will get the media coverage.
‘In London we will win. Dave Ward said they are going to negotiate from tomorrow for three days.
‘We have a solid strike in London.
‘They are hopeful they will get a good deal for us.
‘What has made the difference though is our action.’
Lea Aldridge, a Bognor Regis CWU member, told News Line: ‘Today was a brilliant turnout.
‘People here want proper contracts and to be treated like people and we want to be a public service.
‘People can’t live on the contracts they are being given.
‘Some people are on one-hour contracts but many are on 22 and a half hour contracts.
‘I’ve been a postwoman for 20 years and I’m on a 40-hour week.
‘But most of the people here are fighting for the new people to have proper contracts.
‘There is no security at present.
‘I think there will have to be a national strike. We have to show that we are the public’s company and we can make a change with their voice.
‘If they privatise us, who will be next?’
London West End Delivery Office CWU member Ray Henderson said: ‘Today was pretty good. People are realising we are all in the same position and unity is strength.
‘People are thinking more of the long term rather than the short term.’
Referring to the strikes, he added: ‘It’s a shame that it has to come to this.
‘Management know what procedure is as far as looking at all revised duties, i.e. consult the union before any further change can be made, rather than using bullying tactics.
‘This doesn’t make the situation any better.
‘I’ve been over 14 years in the Post Office and to see how management is behaving is disgusting.
‘They’ve started ordering us about and applying more pressure to get us to work faster and more efficiently.
‘We won’t stand for this shabby treatment.
‘I’m looking forward to the national ballot.
‘Hopefully, management will realise they have to give us what is owed to us and leave us all alone.’
Mount Pleasant Mail Centre, north London, CWU processing rep Syed Abm told News Line: ‘Our demonstration was very effective at the Labour Party conference.
‘I think the government will look after our demands – to save our jobs and pensions, no more job cuts.
‘If our demands are not met there will be a national strike.
‘There will be a big “yes” vote in the national ballot.
‘The members are supporting the union’s demands.
‘Everybody is standing together to save our post and save our jobs.
‘My last word is keep together, stand together and keep the post safe.
‘I had so many people phone me today to support us.’