‘ROYAL Mail not for sale!’ shouted over 200 postal workers and their supporters as they marched through Corby last Friday.
They were applauded as they marched through the town centre to the surgery of local MP Phil Hope behind a lead banner spelling out ‘Britain’s Postal Workers Say Keep The Post Public’, followed by the Corby Communication Workers’ Union (CWU) banner.
Marchers carried placards saying ‘No to Royal Mail privatisation,’ and with pictures of Hope saying ‘Traitor to the people of Corby’ and ‘Wanted for being a turncoat’.
News Line spoke to several marchers before they set off.
Paul Moffat, CWU Eastern Region Secretary, said: ‘I’ve come to support Northamptonshire branch and to rally against Phil Hope the local Labour MP.
‘He has turned coat and refused to sign the EDM (parliamentary Early Day Motion) opposing Royal Mail privatisation.
‘We want him to support his constituents and the members of the CWU in stopping the sell-off of Royal Mail.
‘As far as I’m concerned, we should lobby MPs across the country in their constituencies, all those who refuse to sign the EDM and who support the government’s privatisation plan for Royal Mail.
‘We’re bringing fraternal greetings and support from the Eastern Region to our comrades in the Midlands Region.
‘The time for talking is over, we now need action and to start fighting to save workers’ jobs in this country.
‘We’re looking at 3.3 million jobless by the end of the year.
‘We need a general strike.
‘The French can do it – with 24 per cent of unionisation they bring the whole country out.
‘So I’m sure we can mobilise in Britain.’
CWU Eastern Region No6 Branch Deputy Secretary Kamal Badhan told News Line: ‘I’ve come to join my colleagues in the march through Corby against Royal Mail privatisation.
‘We are annoyed with the local MP Phil Hope for not signing the EDM and for supporting the government.
‘People like Hope and my MP Patrick Hall are just looking after themselves and not the public.
‘Working people see jobs going with the economic downturn and these MPs are doing nothing to stop it.
‘We have to get the public on our side to save their public service.
‘We can’t let this privatisation go on.’
Cook Lorna O’Neill added: ‘My husband works for the Post Office and my father-in-law.
‘I’m not happy about the government’s plan to privatise Royal Mail because it’s going to lose a lot of jobs.
‘We’re in the middle of a recession and we can’t afford to lose jobs – everyone is crying out for a job now.
‘The union has to fight this and take on the government.
‘If it comes to it, there will be strike action. It will come to it.
‘We’re just not happy with the way things are going.
‘We tried lobbying Phil Hope before and he still won’t support the post workers.
‘He said he was on our side, but he’s gone down to parliament and supported privatisation.’
CWU Northamptonshire Branch Area Delivery Rep, Dave Armstrong said: ‘I’m happy to be here to protect and keep Royal Mail in public hands.
‘We’re here today to talk to Phil Hope and get him to change his mind and sign EDM 468 against privatisation, as per the Labour Party manifesto and the Warwick Agreement.
‘I believe the government is wobbling over this issue and they will see sense.
‘If they don’t, we will disaffiliate and I think the other unions might follow suit.
‘We find it incredible that a Labour government that helped fight Tory privatisation has embraced privatisation ideals.
‘Personally, I would look to my union to take some form of industrial action if any other type of negotiation fails.’
Mick Goodchild, Northampton Delivery Office CWU Rep added: ‘We have to get Phil Hope to change his mind and support the CWU to keep Royal Mail wholly publicly owned.
‘If the government gets this through with the Tories, the union will have to take industrial action.
‘It’s not just a time for talking, it’s a time for action.’
CWU member Arthur O’Neill declared: ‘I’m here to get Phil Hope to resign.
‘He’s gone against his people and he doesn’t deserve our support any more, so he should do the respectful thing and resign.’
Outside the MP’s surgery, Northamptonshire CWU Branch Chair Mark Batterham confronted Hope and demanded he support the wholly publicly-owned Royal Mail.
Hope equivocated, claiming he was against Royal Mail privatisation, but said there had to be a dialogue and there had to be ‘inward investment’.
Batterham read out a charge against Hope at a rally outside the MP’s office.
He said: ‘On behalf of Corby, I would like to make the following declarations: for failure to listen to the views of your constituents, we find you guilty.
‘For abusing the powers granted to you by the electorate, we find you guilty.
‘For betraying the trust and the nomination of the CWU when first standing in the constituency of Corby, we find you a turncoat.
‘For supporting the privatisation of the Royal Mail, when the government only a few months ago agreed to retain it as 100 per cent publicly-owned, we find you a traitor.
‘For failing to sign Early Day Motion 428, or indeed any EDM ever, we find you a big yellow-bellied chicken.
‘Also taking into consideration your support for the introduction of top-up fees, ID cards, the war in Iraq, replacement of Trident nuclear weapons, introduction of anti-terorrism laws and your embracement of privatisation of the public sector, also your continued use of TNT, we declare that you have outstayed your welcome in this fine community.
‘Therefore Philip, on behalf of the people of Corby, we say two words: you’re fired.
‘Furthermore, we would like to present you with this P45 as a token of our disgust at your conduct.’
The march went on a rally at the town’s Labour Club.
As they went in, Corby CWU members Myra Biddle and Susan Wyllie told News Line: ‘We’re here to support our work colleagues and stop Royal Mail being privatised.
‘We wanted a straight answer from Phil Hope, which we got today and which was the wrong answer.
‘He wasn’t prepared to support a wholly publicly-owned Royal Mail.
‘We have to take action. The CWU has to take national action.
‘It has to be a national strike, it can’t just be local.’
Northamptonshire CWU Branch Secretary Mick Fitzmaurice told the rally: ‘There’s no appetite for privatising the Royal Mail.’
Fitzmaurice added: ‘We paid Hope a visit on February 20. We asked him again: Do you support the wholly publicly-owned Royal Mail?
‘He said hypocritically he supports a publicly-owned Royal Mail.
‘But he supports Peter Mandelson and privatisation.’
Fitzmaurice concluded: ‘Today is just a start, the CWU will step up its campaign to save Royal Mail.’
CWU Midlands Region Secretary Lee Barron said: ‘I don’t know how Phil Hope had the brass neck to join our march though Corby and say he supports a publicly owned Royal Mail.
‘He doesn’t, he supports Mandelson. It’s dishonest of him to do that.
‘MPs need to understand the anger and the way people feel.’
Local FBU rep Gary Mitchell said: ‘When we were on strike, the silence was deafening from Phil Hope.
‘The Fire Brigade stand shoulder to shoulder with the CWU to fight these proposals.’
Rob Bolton, chairman of HP section, South Central No.1 CWU branch, said: ‘Mandelson has been resurrected more times than Dracula.
‘He’s go the nerve to say modernisation.
‘He means sackings, speed up and a lowering of the influence of the CWU.
‘The union has won over the public.
‘We are going to have to take some form of industrial action in the future.
‘Almost every public service is under attack. There’s natural allies to the CWU.
‘If we are going to take action, we must not call it off in favour of government promises.
‘What promises can we believe – there aren’t any.
‘We need to build up a public sector alliance to defend jobs.’
Other speakers included CWU president Jane Loftus, CWU Executive Member John Farnham, former UPW General Secretary Tony Clare and NUT County Secretary Gordon White.