Postal Strike In Britain Is The War At Home
John Pilger ~ October 21, 2009
~ In his latest
column for the New Statesman, John Pilger argues that the
strike by British postal workers for the right to work
with dignity, consultation and security has wider
significance for all touched by the political regression
that imposes high rates of poverty and gross wealth for an
opulent minority represented by "rescued banks" now
celebrating record bonuses. ~
The postal workers' struggle is as vital for democracy as
any national event in recent years. The campaign against them is
part of a historic shift from the last vestiges of political
democracy in Britain to a corporate world of insecurity
the privateers running the Post Office are allowed to win, the
regression that now touches all lives bar the wealthy
will quicken its pace. A third of British children now live in
low-income or impoverished families. One in five young people is
denied hope of a decent job or education.
And now the Brown government is to mount a "fire sale" of public
assets and services worth £16bn. Unmatched since Margaret
Thatcher’s transfer of public wealth to a new gross elite, the
sale, or theft, will include the Channel Tunnel rail
link, bridges, the student loan bank, school playing fields,
libraries and public housing estates. The plunder of the
National Health Service and public education is already under
The common thread is adherence to the demands of an opulent,
sub-criminal minority exposed by the 2008 collapse of Wall
Street and of the City of London, now rescued with hundreds of
billions in public money and still unregulated with a single
stringent condition imposed by the government. Goldman Sachs,
which enjoys a personal connection with the Prime Minister, is
to give employees record average individual pay and bonus
packages of £500,000. The Financial Times now offers a service
called How to Spend It.
None of this is accountable to the public, whose view was
expressed at the last election in 2005: New Labour won with the
support of barely a fifth of the British adult population. For
every five people who voted Labour, eight did not vote at all.
This was not apathy, as the media pretend, but a strike by
the public - like the postal workers are today on strike.
The issues are broadly the same: the bullying and hypocrisy of
contagious, undemocratic power.
Since coming to office, New Labour has done its best to
destroy the Post Office as a highly productive public
institution valued with affection by the British people. Not
long ago, you posted a letter anywhere in the country and it
reached its destination the following morning. There were two
deliveries a day, and collections on Sundays. The best of
Britain, which is ordinary life premised on a sense of
community, could be found at a local post office, from the
Highlands to the Pennines to the inner cities, where pensions,
income support, child benefit and incapacity benefit were drawn,
and the elderly, the awkward, the inarticulate and the harried
were treated humanely.
At my local post office in south London, if an elderly person
failed to turn up on pension day, he or she would get a visit
from the postmistress, Smita Patel, often with groceries.
She did this for almost 20 years until the government closed
down this "lifeline of human contact", as the local Labour MP
called it, along with more than 150 other local London branches.
The Post Office executives who faced the anger of our community
at a local church - unknown to us, the decision had already been
taken - were not even aware that the Patels made a profit. What
mattered was ideology; the branch had to go. Mention of
public service brought puzzlement to their faces.
The postal workers, having this year doubled annual profits to
£321m, have had to listen to specious lectures from Peter
Mandelson, a twice-disgraced figure risen from the murk of New
Labour, about "urgent modernisation".
truth is, the Royal Mail offers a quality service at half
the price of its privatised rivals Deutsche Post and TNT.
dealing with new technology, postal workers have sought only
consultation about their working lives and the right not to be
abused - like the postal worker who was spat upon by her
manager, then sacked while he was promoted; and the postman with
17 years’ service and not a single complaint to his name who was
sacked on the spot for failing to wear his cycle helmet.
the near frenzy with which your postie now delivers. A
middle-aged man has to run much of his route in order to keep to
a preordained and unrealistic time. If he fails, he is
disciplined and kept in his place by the fear that thousands of
jobs are at the whim of managers.
Communication Workers Union negotiators describe
intransigent executives with a hidden agenda - just as the
National Coal Board masked Thatcher’s strictly political goal of
destroying the miners' union.
collaborative journalists' role is unchanged, too. Mark Lawson,
who pontificates about middlebrow cultural matters for the BBC
and the Guardian and receives many times the remuneration of a
postal worker, dispensed a Sun-style diatribe on 10 October.
Waffling about the triumph of email and how the postal service
was a "bystander" to the internet when, in fact, it has proven
itself a commercial beneficiary, Lawson wrote: "The outcome [of
the strike] will decide whether Billy Hayes of the CWU will,
like [Arthur] Scargill, be remembered as someone who presided
over the destruction of the industry he was meant to represent."
The record is clear that Scargill and the miners were
fighting against the wholesale destruction of an industry
that was long planned for ideological reasons. The miners’
enemies included the most subversive, brutal and sinister forces
of the British state, aided by journalists - as Lawson’s
Guardian colleague Seumas Milne documents in his landmark work,
The Enemy Within.
Postal workers deserve the support of all honest, decent people,
who are reminded that they may be next on the list if
they remain silent.
article is at:
More by John Pilger
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Lying Game ..... Another War Of Aggression
Many Britons, The Party Game Is Over
BABBLING BULLSHIT (Politicians-Media)
Politics of Bollocks by John Pilger
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Gathering and the 100th Monkey
and Introduction to World Gathering