Why I support the postal strike

I’m going to have to write to my mum. And send back those DVDs to the online rental place. Yup, annoyingly, the postal strike is over. At least that’s what newspapers were telling me last week. Royal Mail bosses and the Communication Workers Union (CWU) have decided to actually talk to each other for a while. It’s good news for millions of people whose businesses and lives have been disrupted by the various actions of the postal strike, but what about the rest of us? If you can’t use the strike as an excuse for not bothering to pop down to the post office, what can you use? Soon you may be able to say: ‘so sorry that cheque is late, it’s just that the local post office has been closed and I’m at rather a loose-end as to what to do.’

Why is that likely to be a better excuse? Because the Managing Director of Royal Mail, Alan Cook, is apparently in line to receive a bonus of £1million if he pushes through the closure of 2,500 post offices on time. That is quite an incentive. Now, because I have at times been accused of being too political in the views I express here, let me quote from last week’s Socialist Worker newspaper: ‘[Mr Cook] will be entitled to a bonus of 80 per cent of his £250,000 salary every year until 2011’ and ‘receives at least £50,000 a year as a “lump sum” in lieu of pension, because his pension is already so large.’ Obviously none of that is excessive. After all, how can a man be expected to live on £250,000 a year without such bonuses? Do you know how much caviar, gold-plated toilets and half-naked Filipino house-boys cost these days? More than they used to. Which is possibly why Adam Crozier, Royal Mail’s Chief Executive, needed to be paid a £370,000 bonus on top of his £615,000 salary last year. And why Royal Mail Chairman Alan Leighton was, in 2004, given a £2.2 million bonus on top of his £814,244 salary.

You can picture them, huddled close to the fire in the shack they share, struggling to keep their malnourished fingers warm and saying to one another, like they did in the film Zulu: ‘what’s that humming sound? Is it bees?’ Well, it’s probably not UN planes dropping food aid. Perhaps it’s the angry voices of postal workers who discovered that the plans to close 2,500 post offices are accompanied by the threat of 40,000 job-losses.
 

Or perhaps the angry mob is made up of journalists and members of the public who are annoyed about the fact that, amidst claims that workers pay increases cannot be higher because there’s no money, Royal Mail is refusing to publish its already delayed financial reports. MPs have complained. The Times last week suggested it was an attempt to ‘avoid controversy over executive bonuses or hide the fact that [Royal Mail’s] financial performance is better than expected.’ It’s certainly an interesting coincidence.

I don’t support all strikes. But whenever a large employer claims they cannot meet the wage increase requests of their lowest-paid workers because the company can’t afford it, I always have the urge to spank them until they turn out their pockets. Often one finds senior management earning sums that are obscene anyway, but in the context of cries of poverty, are immoral. The loss of one’s second Jag (or limited ability to buy the latest one) does not measure up to the loss of a breadwinner’s job in a working-class family. I believe that’s a Christian principle. And I don’t care if you complain that I’m too political. As long as you write it in a letter. 

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2 Responses

  1. I’m glad your readership knows how my name is properly pronounced. And if it were a specific promise, it would have a definite article, rather than an indefinite.

  2. Well said, as a postie myself it’s good to see that some people are looking past the whole “posties want more money” issue and see the bigger picture, that in fact the money is of course there!

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