Postal workers told to improve or else: Scots privatisation threat
MILITANT Post Office workers were yesterday warned they could face at least 100,000 job losses and privatisation of mail deliveries in Glasgow and Edinburgh if they refuse to improve their industrial relations record. The new postal watchdog predicted that both postal staff and management were “running out of time” to end the lengthy series of stoppages, and said they appeared “simply incapable of change”. Martin Stanley, head of the new regulator, PostComm, compared the Royal Mail to Rover’s Longbridge plant, where he said union and management intransigence led to almost 30,000 redundancies. A queue of Royal Mail customers was already begging him to be allowed to switch to a different postal supplier. These included some big customers seeking a supplier “that will not go on strike, turn seedlings upside down, steal giro books and passports, or misdeliver one million items a week”. He confirmed he was thinking of introducing three sorts of competition, including the carriage of bulk mail between the big mail centres or cities, allowing new operators to serve individual large customers, and encouraging new local delivery services. Mr Stanley indicated that, as first reported in The Herald in March, new local operations would centre on areas like Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Liverpool, where successive wildcat strikes have disrupted deliveries. The first anyone would know about the emergence of competition would be “when we give 28 days’ notice that we are minded to license competition”. In March, postal workers in Glasgow took unofficial strike action over a manager accused of making inappropriate comments to a woman worker. It spread to 5000 workers, with Lothian, Tayside, and Fife joining in the dispute. However, the warning by Mr Stanley brought an accusation of “scaremongering”from the main postal union, while management admitted frustration at the lack of pace in introducing change. Mr Stanley, a former senior civil servant and a past director of American Express and IBM, took up his post in March. He has been addressing Communications Workers Union activists and management grades around the UK. He has told them of “outdated methods and attitudes”, stressing that repeated damaging stoppages are likely to drive customers into the arms of private operators. The Royal Mail has been plagued by unofficial strikes for some time, with 30,000 working days lost since October, many in the central belt. Mr Richard Dykes, mail services managing director of Consignia, as the Post Office is now known, said that more had to be done to improve services and productivity. But Derek Hodgson, CWU general secretary, criticised the regulator for “irresponsible scaremongering” and talking “complete and utter bloody nonsense” with his comparison with Longbridge, and allegations of pilfering.
The union was trying to establish a dialogue with the regulator, was very
aware of the need to provide good services to customers, and was unhappy
the level of unofficial strike action.THE HERALD, 19th May 2001