Political support for the postal service
"What we do does make a difference and we can win," insisted CWU general secretary Billy Hayes yesterday at a packed Westminster campaign meeting aimed at halting Royal Mail privatisation and protecting the universal service.
And deputy general secretary Dave Ward vowed: "We'll give this everything we've got and we'll fight this to the end" to the standing-room-only audience of well over 200 CWU representatives from all regions of the UK and several MPs.
Recent letter delivery trials carried out by unregulated private operator TNT in west London, in addition to the Government's privatisation plans will, the union warns, plunge the UK's postal service into the most serious crisis in its 350-year history.
Statutory regulator Ofcom sets stringent operating standards for Royal Mail, which is obliged to deliver to everyone everywhere six days per week under specific quality of service criteria.
But it sets no standards for other operators, who are able to deliver wherever, whenever and to whoever they choose, allowing them to 'cherry-pick' the most profitable inner-city routes and pay far lower rates of pay to a part-time and casual workforce.
Earlier this week, the CWU launched its Protect the Post campaign, the key aims of which are:
To halt the privatisation of Royal Mail
To halt the 'race to the bottom' in jobs, terms and conditions of postal workers and service standards
And to save the universal postal service
Yesterday's event, at a House of Parliament Committee Room, focussed on maximising support for the campaign's aims by winning the widest possible political support for Early Day Motion (EDM) 818, which has been submitted by an unofficial 'coalition' of Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish Members of Parliament.
The Motion expresses "alarm" that Ofcom has "failed to register the dangers to Royal Mail's provision of the universal service obligation," adds that the regulator has "allowed the introduction of delivery competition without putting into place any safeguards" protecting the USO and that there is "no obligation on competitors to meet Royal Mail delivery standards, or even to publish details of delivery performance in a manner accessible to customers and the public.
"Ofcom is urged to "reconsider" and "ensure that Royal Mail is not subjected to unfair competition in delivery provision."
Scottish National Party (SNP) MP Mike Weir (Angus), who sponsored the EDM, told the meeting: "I represent a rural community and the public and businesses rely on the universal service, a service that no private company is ever going to offer.
"This is a very real danger outside of the major cities," he continued, adding that it was vital that the general public and his fellow Parliamentarians are made fully aware of the peril that the USO is in.
Welsh party Plaid Cymru and Northern Ireland's DUP and SDLP have co-sponsored the EDM along with the SNP, in a clear indication that the devolved nations of the UK are particularly worried about the future of postal services.
Labour's Ian Murray (Edinburgh South), who serves as Shadow Minister for Postal Affairs on leader Ed Miliband's Parliamentary front bench said that the party would back the aims of the EDM, and went on to described as "perverse" that the Government should be considering the privatisation of Royal Mail at a time when it was "once again becoming a profitable company in better shape than it has been for some time.
"We will be putting up a strong defence," he pledged.
Labour MPs Michael Connarty (Linlithgow and Falkirk East), Fiona MacTaggart (Slough), Katy Clark (North Ayrshire and Arran), Lisa Nandy (Wigan) and Kate Hoey (Vauxhall) also spoke at the event, each of them pledging support for EDM 818 and promising to urge their Parliamentary colleagues to join them.
Billy Hayes thanked the MPs for their support and said that the CWU would be urging as many MPs as possible to sign up to the EDM, right across the political spectrum.
"The new regulator is not serious about defending the USO - we are the real defenders of the USO," he argued, adding: "What we do does make a difference and we'll work with all parties to defend our industry."
And Dave Ward insisted: "If the regulator does nothing, if the Government does nothing - make no mistake, postal workers will do something."
Dave concluded his speech by saying: "We're standing up for postal workers and for decent jobs. We're standing up for this service to the public and for this industry.
"We'll fight this to the end and we'll give it everything we've got."