MORE than 800 postal workers from all parts of the country, from Plymouth to Scotland, marched on the Labour Party conference in Manchester yesterday lunchtime.
They were joined by some members of the GMB fighting the closure of the Remploy factories for the disabled.
Led by the Lothian Scots Pipe Band, they showed their determination to fight the privatisation of the Post Office, defend their pensions and stop Mail Centre closures.
They were shouting slogans such as ‘Gordon Brown, going down’, ‘Crozier, Crozier, Crozier – Out, out, out!’ and ‘What do we want – decent pensions. When do we want them – Now!’
A fence separated the demonstrators from the Labour Party conference, where armed police were on guard.
When the postal workers arrived at the conference, a large group started chanting ‘Are you Tories in disguise?’
Speaking to News Line outside the conference, Roger Charles, branch secretary of Mount Pleasant Communication Workers’ Union (CWU) said: ‘It’s all very well looking after the big banks but the people in the street are suffering with caps on public sector pay, attacks on our pensions, rising fuel bills and the greater instability in the job market.
‘Lots of people are being made unemployed.
‘Brown hasn’t delivered for working people.’
GMB member Tony Gledhill from Leeds told News Line: ‘29 Remploy factories have closed.
‘We’re here to fight for the ones that remain open.
‘They’re not Labour any more, they’re not left wing, they’re right wing, they’re the new Conservatives.’
GMB member Peter Williamson said: ‘My factory in Stockport has been shut.’
Peter and Tony agreed that there should be action by the whole trade union movement to bring in a workers government.
‘Brown gave us an assurance that he’d look at reopening Remploy York and he’s never done that,’ said Tony.
A rally before the march set off was addressed by CWU general secretary Billy Hayes and deputy general secretary Dave Ward, as well as CWU-sponsored MPs and regional union leaders.
‘The policies of new Labour since ’97 have made our industry a disaster zone,’ said Ward.
‘I don’t want a Tory government,’ added Ward, whilst pleading with the Labour government to ‘put their money into the industry and invest in it for the future.’
Hayes told the rally that if the soon-to-be published Hooper Report called for privatisation of the Post Office, then the CWU will say: ‘No privatisation!’
Postal workers told News Line that they would fight for their pensions and against Mail Centre closures.
Bob Cullen, CWU Area Processing Rep at Oxford Mail Centre said: ‘People still have the belief that the Labour Party will do something to help the postal industry.
‘But there’s no chance – not unless we call ourselves a bank. It’s an illusion.’
CWU leader Hayes told the rally that Unite and other trade unions were backing the CWU in putting forward a motion to the Labour Party conference yesterday to maintain the Post Office as an integrated public service.
Conference agreed the Warwick policy statement which contained keeping the Royal Mail in public ownership.