‘This is just the start of the battle,’ declared Communication Workers’ Union (CWU) deputy general secretary Dave Ward at a mass rally in Westminster yesterday.
The 500-strong ‘Keep Royal Mail Public’ rally preceded a lobby of parliament against the government’s part-privatisation plan being introduced to parliament tomorrow.
Ward told the rally: ‘Privatisation by installment is privatisation by any name.’
He continued: ‘These people have betrayed their own party, they have betrayed the country.’
Referring to a warning that if the privatisation doesn’t go through, the Royal Mail pension fund will go bust, Ward added angrily: ‘This government leaked a letter from the chairman of the pensions trust to try to intimidate us – that’s the lowest move of any government.’
He threatened that the union will disaffiliate from the Labour Party over Royal Mail privatisation.
Ward added: ‘We do not accept the position the government is doing us a favour to bail out the pensions. Royal Mail took a pensions holiday for years.’
He concluded to applause: ‘This has to be a public campaign but if it means at some point that to defeat this, and some say it will be illegal, if it means our members taking strike action, we will do that.’
CWU general secretary Billy Hayes told the rally: ‘Today is about people’s democracy against a political elite.’
He added that Labour Party policy agreed at conference was to keep Royal Mail public ‘then we got Hooper’.
Hayes said: ‘With Peter Mandelson, six years of policy was wiped away in one minute. What he is doing is straightforward political cowardice.
‘We are for modernisation. Privatisation, that’s what we are not about. Not twenty, ten or five per cent privatisation – 100 per cent in the public sector,’ he concluded to applause.
Unite joint general secretary Tony Woodley told the rally: ‘These spivs and speculators that have brought the country to ruin mustn’t get their hands on the Post Office.’
He added: ‘The leaked pensions letter is an attempt by Mandelson to blackmail MPs into submission. They should not be allowed to do that.’
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka warned: ‘It’s not about winning the argument. Since Labour has been in power there’s been more privatisation than under the Tories.’
He said to applause: ‘If industrial action is something you have to contemplate, we will give every support, including ourselves considering industrial action.’
Other speakers bringing their support included TUC leader Brendan Barber, GMB leader Paul Kenny, rail union leaders Bob Crow, Alan Donnelly and Gerry Doherty, UNISON leader Dave Prentis, UCATT leader Alan Ritchie and Mick Shaw (FBU).
Several Labour MPs addressed the rally including Morecambe MP Geraldine Smith, the proposer of Early Day Motion (EDM) 428 opposing privatisation, who won a standing ovation, as did Hayes and Harlington MP John McDonnell when he called on unions to defy the anti-union laws and strike if the part-privatisation becomes law.