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Peter Hadden

Don’t privatise the Post office

(March 2002)

From Socialist Voice, No. 45, March 2002.
Transcribed and marked up by Ciaran Crossey.
Proofread by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL). (July 2012)

Postcomm, the body that has come up with the proposal to open the postal service to privatisation, visited Northern Ireland on 7 March for “consultation” on their proposals.

The “consultation” consisted of a short and badly publicised meeting held at 11am in Belfast. This sham exercise took place just three weeks before the first step in the Postcomm plan to open postal deliveries to the private sector comes into effect. The vast majority of people in Northern Ireland are opposed to this privatisation, understanding that it will destroy the postal service as we know it. Yet they have been given no opportunity to put their views.

Socialist Party members who have been campaigning on the issue went to the meeting and interrupted the Postcomm speakers, demanding that they call a properly publicised meeting at a time when workers, especially postal workers, would be able to take part. Postcomm refused to give a commitment to call such a meeting.

The Postcomm and government proposals are to allow private companies to take over ever bigger chunks of the mail delivery service. This is in the name of “fair competition”. Yet there is nothing fair about it. The private operators will take over the profitable parts of the service leaving the less profitable parts – like deliveries to rural areas – to Royal Mail/Consignia.

There is no way that Royal Mail will be able to compete in price with companies that only operate lucrative parts of the service in the main urban areas. The result will be increased prices, job losses and the end of the universal postal service that now exists.

The Communication Workers Union is holding a demonstration in London on 16 March to oppose these plans. In Northern Ireland the union plan to take the issue to the Assembly with a motion for debate and a lobby outside.

It would be useful to get a motion through the Assembly but beyond this we can expect little from the Assembly members. Only one bothered to turn up to the Postcomm “consultation”. That was John Dallat of the SDLP. While expressing his reservations, he also commented that he was not opposed to private sector “competition” being allowed. The real opposition will have to come from the unions, community organisations and from groups like the Socialist Party. The campaigning work done by the Socialist Party so far has had a massive response. A local demonstration should be organised to allow the strength of the opposition to be shown.

The campaign to “Keep postal services public” must continue until Blair is forced to back down. As for Postcomm, they have shown themselves to be nothing more than a third column for the private sector and should be scrapped.

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Last updated: 5.7.2012