Postal Workers Under Fire
ireland / britain |
workplace struggles |
Tuesday May 24, 2005 22:07 by Kevin Doyle - WSM
An Post and the Threat of Privatisation
I hope things will come around and that at the end of the day we will manage to save An Post from privatisation. You don't want to think the opposite, because it is your job. But the truth is that all the signs, everything is pointing the other way around.
Postal Workers Under Fire
Interview: An Post and the Threat of Privatisation
Over the last year or so, the working conditions of staff in An
Post have been the subject of cutbacks and attacks by its management
and ultimately the government. This includes shutting the SDS Courier
service, withholding pay-rises, and understaffing many sorting
offices. The strategy is to undermine workers? morale and thereby to
facilitate either privatisation or simply to weaken An Post in order
to benefit private competitors. Kevin Doyle
interviews a postal worker in Cork to find out the mood on the shop
What is the situation in An Post now?
Right now they are the focus of privatisation efforts in the
public sector. They are not needed like ESB workers who can stop
power, nor are they seen as essential like health workers. They are
perceived as an easier target and are weaker.
Was the recent shutting down of SDS a part of this
Yes, it had to do with the opening of the markets wider for the
private mail companies that are already working in Ireland and making
profit - like DHL, Federal Express etc. These companies only deal
with parcels and packets and it's a profitable business. SDS provided
the same service at low cost, which is what you expect of a public
service, but now with SDS out of the way, it will be even better for
the private operators. People need to realise how dangerous
privatisation will be. Right now wherever you live in Ireland you get
the service that anyone else gets... it's even. But privatisation
will change that. The money is to be made in the high population
density areas where post can be moved in bulk easily. So a lot of
people and a lot of communities will lose out if privatisation
happens. The service will become uneven and unequal.
How is the privatisation issue being pushed?
An Post management is trying to convince the workforce that
privatisation is the only way forward for the company. It is a EU
directive, they claim, that cannot be ignored. It's a method of
bullying. As part of this we see all the new investment in
technology. But the new technology has not increased productivity.
Similarly, they want to leave a lot of workers go, on the grounds
that it would make An Post more efficient. Management claim they have
no money to pay workers and yet the give themselves huge bonuses and
Speaking of investment, the Cork Mail Centre (CMC) is
the big new operation with An Post, but it sounds like a harsh place
The situation is crazy. Everyone down there says one thing: too
many chiefs and no Indians. That's what it is like there. A lot of
supervisors and managers for just 200 people. That is where the
inefficiently is. Supervisors watching, watching, watching. Which is
even odd because the place is covered with cameras, monitoring
What is the situation with the union in An Post now?
The union in An Post is very strong if you look at the numbers. It
has a big membership. But for the average worker the opinion is not
just that the union does very little for the members, it actually
does nothing. There is a lot of mistrust.
How can the union be doing nothing in the present
situation, what with the drive to privatisation?
The union as I said is strong in An Post, but instead of taking
strength in that fact, and putting the real issues on the table for
the government and the management of An Post it is just staying
quiet. And it is not because they have no perspective. The union
leadership know how things are going and where they are going... An
Post workers have been hit under the belt a number of times in the
last few years, but the union instead of taking the opportunity to
defend its members, it is just ignoring the situation. For example,
some of the money due to workers under the last national agreement
has not been paid yet. But instead of taking the opportunity not to
agree to any talks on a new agreement with the government and the
management until this money is paid, they accept the situation and
make promises to the workers. So now we are in the ludicrous
situation where we are being asked to agree to a new pay deal and we
still haven't got what is our due from the last! It is a joke.
It?s sound crazy all right. What sort of input does
the ordinary member of the union have into all of this?
There is no real democracy in the union. We do have elections once
a year but if issues arise in the interim, there is nobody to discuss
them. The reps are not doing the jobs that they should. They don't
seem to care. For example at the CMC a lot of issues have arisen with
shift work, salaries, and the treatment by the management, but the
union has been incapable to handling them. There is no decision
making process. There is not the gathering of the workers in the
short term for us all to be informed of what is going on and what is
happening. Or to vote. It is authoritarian. It is and it is getting
worse. Because you see the more you give to the management they more
they will walk all over you. Little things make a difference, you
There was almost a national strike after the recent
stand-off over SDS?
The situation is a paradox. There were a lot of people in SDS
working hard, 24/7, and they knew they benefited the company. It was
well known. But the management just decided that this was the branch
to be cut off, even though as I say it was the branch that bore
fruit. So it was crazy and especially to those who worked in SDS and
knew what the truth was. You just can't do that. People were angry
about that but they were also afraid. The union also spun the line
that to strike would make An Post even more susceptible to
privatisation because a strike would hurt the company financially. So
the situation really was not good. It was very disappointing. The
union is not doing the job it should do. I think a lot of members
don't realise the union leaders are playing games behind our back -
their agenda is different.
Where do you see things going?
An Post Worker: I hope things will come around and that at the end
of the day we will manage to save An Post from privatisation. You
don't want to think the opposite, because it is your job. But the
truth is that all the signs, everything is pointing the other way
around; in other words that the government and the management will
manage to get what they want - privatisation. The problems are
manifold but the lack of solidarity between the union members and the
general problem with the union as I spoke about earlier - these are
central. If we are united there is no way management could get away
with what they are planning to do. So the big challenge is to build
solidarity and to make the union our union.
struggles and the unions
Solidarity 85 published March 2005