Postal workers yesterday responded angrily to Gordon Brown’s insistence at prime minister’s questions, on the eve of their 24-hour rolling strikes, that ‘pay settlements must tackle inflation’.
Brown refused to intervene at the request of Islington South Labour MP Emily Thornberry, on behalf of postal worker constituents, to get Royal Mail to negotiate.
Mount Pleasant CWU Deputy Area Rep. Kevin O’Hara told News Line: ‘When we were offered 2.5 per cent, inflation was running at 4.8 per cent.
‘So it’s quite reasonable that we were not prepared to accept the pay offer.
‘It’s disappointing that the government seem reluctant to get involved, because they actually own the Post Office.’
Referring to the strike at Mail Centres, the first of a fortnight of rolling sectional strikes, he added: ‘I’m confident the strike will be solid again and we will be able to force (Royal Mail bosses) Leighton and Crozier back to the negotiating table.’
Also commenting on Brown’s remarks, CWU South West Regional Secretary Kevin Beazer said: ‘Our members are pretty angry when the government talks about inflation and they don’t include house prices etc., which has a massive impact on members’ wages.
‘Also, our members are paid 27 per cent less than the national average wage.
‘Our members have been further angered by the leaked document on pensions, which shows the Post Office intends for us to work longer, contribute more and get less out of the scheme.
‘It’s inevitable now to force the Post Office back to the negotiating table, that escalating action will take place.
‘There is so much at stake – jobs, wages and conditions and our pensions – we have to win this battle.’
On Tuesday, a succession of speakers at a CWU lobby of Parliament had called on Brown to put pressure on Royal Mail management to negotiate or suffer the consequences with the public.
CWU deputy general secretary Dave Ward warned that the union was set to ‘escalate the dispute politically and with the public’.
Ward added: ‘If Gordon Brown, John Hutton and other members of the government will not put pressure on Royal Mail management to negotiate that must mean they are backing them 100 per cent.’
He accused Royal Mail of ‘using competition as a stick to beat the workers with’.
However, despite warning that the public faces ‘2,000 post office closures and the systematic destruction of the postal service in the UK’, Ward said: ‘If Royal Mail come round the negotiating table we will call off the strikes.’
CWU general secretary Billy Hayes declared that Royal Mail bosses Leighton and Crozier only believed in profit while the union supported public service.
‘We will fight to defend our public service and will win this dispute,’ said Hayes.