Robin Hood Goes Postal- Support The Posties!

The postmen & women who are being forced to defend their careers against a dishonest and rapacious management & government are to be applauded. What has become clear is the corporatist Neoliberals of New Labour and the bullying management have conspired to continue a backdoor process of privatisation despite public opposition and official denials. This coming strike will be a watershed moment that either successfully stalls their plans or leads to the destruction of a postal service that serves the British people rather than profits off them. What will be crucial in keeping the postal service in our hands will be the public’s support of the strikers, when the government and management see their ‘customer base’ reject their plans for exploitation it will create greater pressure for them to return and negotiate with the union.

Check out local CWU branches here. Show your support.

Check out Roy Mayall’s Blog Going Postal (ht2 Soul of a Man Under Capitalism)

As Dave Semple says-

Now it is a fight, alea iacta est. The working class, and all socialists, labourites and everyone on the Left, should stand behind the posties. Turn up to their picket lines and wish them well. As one young pluck did, bring them homebaked goods. Donate some money to the strike fund. Attend solidarity group meetings. The bottom line is this; the posties are the men and women who deliver a service we all take advantage of.

If, in our own jobs, we know about mismanagement or the government neo-liberal ideology getting in the way of efficiency, if we’re sick of being lectured at and told things which are blatantly untrue, of being bullied and cajoled into overtime we’re not getting paid for, and we ever want the support of other workers, now is our time to shine.

PS. I think it is crucial to pass on information that gives the context to the strike action, psychologically there is a tendency for people to assume all is well until something different happens or there is a change, when the event occurs and it has negative effects for the observer they will, in the absence of knowledge and context, make a judgement that the party that is presented as causing the change is to be blamed. So when a strike occurs the corporate media have an easy job making people annoyed at the strikers because people have not had the ongoing situation within the industry reported in as prominent a way, they have not read of bullying management, false statements and fraudulent negotiating stances. This combined with the false notions of balance corporate news uses as a fig leaf excuse for giving undue emphasis to the views of the powerful makes the media aspect of a strike very difficult. Or short version- if someone moans about the strike do make them read this from the London Review of Books then point out people do not like striking, it is anxious and worrying experience that costs them money, they do so because management have committed such serious abuses against them and all other means of redress have failed. The blame lies with management and the government and particularly millionaire Baron Peter Mandelson, the striking posties are the heros coming to the rescue of our postal service.

Like many businesses, the Royal Mail has a pet name for its customers. The name is ‘Granny Smith’. It’s a deeply affectionate term. Granny Smith is everyone, but particularly every old lady who lives alone and for whom the mail service is a lifeline. When an old lady gives me a Christmas card with a fiver slipped in with it and writes, ‘Thank you for thinking of me every day,’ she means it. I might be the only person in the world who thinks about her every day, even if it’s only for long enough to read her name on an envelope and then put it through her letterbox. There is a tension between the Royal Mail as a profit-making business and the Royal Mail as a public service. For most of the Royal Mail management – who rarely, if ever, come across the public – it is the first. To the delivery officer – to me, and people like me, the postmen who bring the mail to your door – it is more than likely the second.

We had a meeting a while back at which all the proposed changes to the business were laid out. Changes in our hours and working practices. Changes to our priorities. Changes that have led to the current chaos. We were told that the emphasis these days should be on the corporate customer. It was what the corporations wanted that mattered. We were effectively being told that quality of service to the average customer was less important than satisfying the requirements of the big businesses.

Someone piped up in the middle of it. ‘What about Granny Smith?’ he said. He’s an old-fashioned sort of postman, the kind who cares about these things.

‘Granny Smith is not important,’ was the reply. ‘Granny Smith doesn’t matter any more.’

So now you know.

Posted in Class War, Shock Doctrine. Tags: , . Comments Off on Robin Hood Goes Postal- Support The Posties!

Royal Mail’s Management Strategy- Scabbing


Royal Mail will recruit up to 30,000 temporary staff to deal with upcoming strikes by postal workers and the Christmas rush, the service has said. The Communication Workers Union has called two nationwide strikes next week over pay, conditions and reform. The firm said it would hire twice the usual number of extra pre-Christmas staff to cut the impact of “unjustified and irresponsible” industrial action. But the CWU said managers should be talking, not “planning for failure”. The 24-hour strikes will begin on 22 October. On the first day, mail centre staff and drivers will strike. The next day it will be delivery and collection staff.

And guess what, because of the ‘crisis’ (the creators of which are currently paying themselves multimillion pound bonuses) there are lots of unemployed people and because of welfare privatisation and ‘reform’ they cannot survive for long or take work of their choice, see how that works?

Canada’s Neocons Privatise Nuclear Industry

The federal government will announce today a plan to seek buyers for Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd.’s nuclear reactor business, and bring in private-sector management for AECL’s problem-plagued Chalk River facility. After a two-year review of Ottawa’s flagship nuclear company, Natural Resources Minister Lisa Raitt will launch a sale process with the aim of finding a major international partner for AECL to help boost global sales of its Candu reactors.

This as the federal government looks to raise money from asset sales to reduce its soaring deficit. The effort is hampered by depressed real estate prices.

It is worth pointing out the review was undertaken by the National Bank of Canada which looked for buyers. Thus we see some standard Shock Doctrine, facts being fixed around a policy by complimentary ideologues leading to a privatisation in time of crisis-

 The government’s decision to restructure AECL is its response to a report it commissioned from the National Bank of Canada last year to advise it on what, if anything, it ought to do with the Crown corporation. The bank advised that it should sell at least 51 per cent of AECL and encourage it to strike new deals with international players to help it make new sales in international markets. Government officials said National Bank found significant interest in buying a chunk of AECL although the bank’s discussions with potential buyers concluded in the first half of 2008. Government officials conceded that market interest may have withered because of the onset of the global recession.

Or put another way- the price will be low for the buyers they are lining up- expect some revolving door consultancies and directorships. As for the Tory Minister Lisa Raitt, she sued public groups to stifle their free speech when head of the Toronto Port Authority and celebrated how climate change would be good for Canada. The NRU unit at Chalk river that provides medical isotopes (one third of world supplies) will remain in government hands, it is currently shut down, leaks and is 51 years old. Thus liabilities remain on public hands even as they look to install a private sector manager for the plant, US style. A Canadian blogger writes

Lisa Raitt’s Nuclear Yard Sale- My husband studied physics engineering at McMaster University, and worked at the accelerator lab there as a nuclear safety technician. So he knows his nukes.

He’s yelling at the TV right now.

Not surprising when-

Ottawa will continue to fund research to support AECL’s commercial business, and could be left with legacy costs from the firm’s need to deal with nuclear waste.

It’s a corporate neoliberal wet dream!

Rogue Mail

So even as the crisis caused by privatisation, deregulation and ‘flexible’ labour mounts New Labour figure it best to part privatise the postal service-

The Royal Mail will be partially privatised as part of a range of measures to protect its long-term future, Lord Mandelson announced today. The business secretary said the government had already had an expression of interest from the Dutch postal company TNT and that part-privatisation was necessary to ensure the continuation of the universal postal service.

He also said the government would take on a share of the Royal Mail’s massive £7bn pension deficit. Publishing Richard Hooper’s report into the future of the Royal Mail, Mandelson said its conclusions made “sober reading” and ministers would be accepting its three key recommendations.

Hooper said the Royal Mail should form a “strategic minority partnership” with a private company, the government should take responsibility for reducing the pension deficit, and the service should be regulated by Ofcom, the communications regulator, not Postcomm, the postal services regulator.

So questions, pension deficit? Hmm how did that happen-

According to new calculations reported in today by Independent pension consultant, John Ralfe who bases his estimate on data available from the Royal Mail’s March accounts,Royal Mail’s pension deficit could rise from £2.9bn to £5bn by the end of September. As of March the Royal Mail had pension assets of £23.9bn and liabilities of £26.8bn, giving a deficit of £2.9bn. However, by the end of September Mr Ralfe estimates the value of its assets will have fallen to approximately £21bn, with liabilities amounting to £26bn, giving a £5bn deficit.

The £23.9bn figure comprised; £11bn of equities, £10bn of bonds, property of £2.7bn and £200m held or invested elsewhere. Estimated liabilities at the end of September of £21.1bn are based on a 15pc fall in equities to £9.5bn, bonds down 10pc to £9bn, and a £200m fall in property to £2.4bn. Other investments are assumed to have remained unchanged at £200m.

The estimated figure reflects ongoing turmoil in the stockmarket, but won’t include the shares bloodbath seen earlier this month. But for the fact that the fund shifted £4bn out of equities and into bonds last year, the numbers would have been even worse. The country’s 200 largest corporate pension schemes had lost more than £45bn in value since the end of August, due to the sharp stockmarket sell-off.

So that would be the same neoliberal polices causing the deficit which in turn is reason to pursue neoliberal polices of privatisation and…deregulation, yes Royal Mail CEO Adam Crozier is a zealous disciple of the dogma-

Adam Crozier, Royal Mail’s chief executive, said the shackles needed to be lifted from the group to enable it to compete against private-sector competition, which was creaming off the lucrative business mail contracts that had traditionally supported the universal service. “We need the market to be deregulated to allow us to compete, not just against other postal companies but other communications companies. We have probably lost more direct-marketing business to Google than to [private postal operator] TNT,” he said.

Crozier said Royal Mail would not turn its back on its obligations: “The universal service is a huge asset for Royal Mail and for the nation as a whole. It is part of the fabric of our society and is vitally important both to social cohesion and to the UK economy … It is vital that we have a real debate about how the universal service can be financed.”

Now then how come those businesses could cream off the juicy contracts? Because the postal system was deregulated beginning 2006 thus allowing the creaming off to start and weaken the Royal Mail, in other words a long game of privatisation each step creating a problem that according to the church of the free market could only be solved by going further along with their plans, a neat scam. Now this big ol’ report was authored by Richard Hooper, so you’ll be reassured to know he has massive experience in the postal service, well he’s written and received letters, what more do you need?

Richard Hooper is currently Chairman of Artilium plc and a non-executive Director at YELL Group plc. He stood down as Chairman of Informa plc in May 2007. He was Deputy Chairman of the Office of Communications (Ofcom) between 2002 and 2005 and Chairman of the Radio Authority for three years until 2003. Previous directorships include non-executive director of MAI plc (1993-6), non-executive director of United News & Media (1996-7), non-executive director of Superscape plc (2000-2) and non-executive Chairman of IMS Group plc (1997-2002). He was also Director, Prestel, at Post Office Telecommunications (1980-81) and Chief Executive Value Added Systems and Services, BT (1982-86).

Mr Hooper was a founder member of the radio authority in 1991, his interests are far more diverse. After completing the BBC’s general training course he worked in radio and was one of the producers behind the launch of the Open University.

After leaving the BBC, he was involved in the creation of pre-internet electronic information service Prestel, had a stint at BT running Yellow Pages and fronted doomed pan-European satellite TV company Super Channel. He then went on to be consultant before returning to the fray proper in his role at the radio authority.

So once again we have an asked & answered consultation/report process, they already know what the end result is to be- privatisation, deregulation, they get a suitable suit to write up a report which the government than waves about as evidence of the rightness of its policies. A circular process creating a downward spiral into neoliberal oblivion that even this current crash will not deter, institutionalised as they all are by decades of orthodoxy that has until recently made them all incredibly rich even as it impoverished others. In fact that aspect- seeing the hell below them- makes them more desperate than ever to hold onto the means to stay insulated from our struggles. And it’s certainly worked for Crozier-

Royal Mail was accused of “rewarding failure” after disclosing that its chief executive, Adam Crozier, was given a 26 per cent pay rise last year, taking his total package to £1.25 million.

Despite the loss of twice-daily postal deliveries and the closure of thousands of post offices, Mr Crozier, who has just been embroiled in the worst postal strike in 20 years, received a performance bonus of £469,000. His salary was £629,000 and he had £158,000 in pension and benefits. The pay increase was almost 10 times the 2.9 per cent awarded to other staff in the year to March 2007.

Private Library

There is an excellent post @LC by James Bridle about our public libraries, the catalogue and database is outsourced to a private corporation, here’s the skinny-

What I didn’t know is that the OCLC is the supplier of library data for all UK libraries, which have to pay to upload their data – and then pay to get it back out again. I spoke to someone at OCLC (briefly – they’re not that interested in individuals) and was informed that while it is possible to interact with their data at a programmable level, the fees for doing so are immense: in the thousands and thousands of pounds.

To me, this was a scandal. Why are our publicly funded libraries locked into a monopolistic relationship with a clearly greedy data supplier? Why are they paying thousands of pounds to access their own data? Why are the public, whose money is paying for this, locked out of the system?

He goes on to quote from The Open Library project who are fighting this privatisation of information, but check it all, capital never sleeps they will have McLibraries before you know it.

Riddle Me This

  • What happened in August.
  • Was announced in a letter with September 2008 (no day, just the month) printed at the top.
  • But actually arrived on the 18th November?

Our electricity company raising the prices 20%. Funny that. So for three months we were being charged more, but they only tell us now. So even if you were looking to switch suppliers because of price rises, they get 3 months out of you before you know what’s hit, sweet!

Posted in Capitalism, Corporatism. Tags: , . Comments Off on Riddle Me This

Welsh Porridge

Inadequate mental health care provision at a young offenders’ institution has been criticised as scandalous by Wales’ children’s commissioner and an MP. Both Keith Towler and the MP Madeline Moon have demanded urgent action by the Welsh Assembly Government to address the issue at Parc Prison in Bridgend.

Currently, young offenders with mental health care needs have to be sent to England to serve their sentences. The assembly government said it was committed to support young offenders.
Mr Towler and Ms Moon have called on the assembly government to set up a community mental health service at Parc, the only institute for young offenders in Wales. The category B prison, Wales’ only private jail, has more than 1,000 male adults and young offenders.

Primary health care, such as GP services, is provided to the private prison by Primecare, but other health services such as dealing with serious and enduring mental illnesses are the Welsh Assembly Government’s responsibility.

“Parc Prison has never had an in-reach mental health service – a child and adolescent mental health service – reaching into the prison and we have a serious problem here,” Ms Moon told the BBC’s Politics Show Wales. “Parc was opened specifically so that Welsh youngsters could serve their sentence in Wales as close to their families and communities. Those most needy youngsters with mental health problems have had to be sent to England.”

Ms Towler agreed with Ms Moon’s view that the situation was a national disgrace. “These are children in need regardless of their behaviour and they deserve a response that can meet that mental health requirement,” said Mr Towler. “The stark fact is that we do not have those resources available.

“It is a scandal,” he added.

Let me count the ways…private fucking prison with private fucking healthcare! No mandated mental health care for a group that is recognised to have greater need, the responsibility left to the public sector which then seems to lose its nationalist pride where looking after the most vulnerable is concerned. The irony is Parc used to be…a psychiatric hospital. Scandal & disgrace is right. So while the private prison makes profits from our money, the prisoners in need of healthcare either get none or are sent miles from home to England, which of course the authorities avoid because of costs incurred. So that’s neoliberalism Welsh style, Parc Prison is such a shining beacon-

Two warders from Wales’s first privately-run prison have been sacked after giving an in-mate a hoax note warning of his family’s death. The prisoner at Parc Prison near Bridgend, south Wales, is said to have been distressed by the message which said his entire family had been wiped out in a fire. The pair returned 20 minutes later to explain the claim was a joke.

Parc Prison, which is run by Securicor, has been criticised by the prison inspectorate for its poor race relations. Black prisoners moved to Parc from jails in England have complained of being attacked by white gangs, including the Rhondda Skins. Some inmates have said that one part of the jail is known as a “Ku Klux Klan Wing”. Although more recent inspections have suggested that the situation at Parc has improved, the CRE is anxious to investigate and to explore claims that English young prisoners have been victimised by Welsh inmates.

But the Chief Inspector of Prisons later lauded jail owners Securicor in March 2001 for measures taken to improve matters. Sir David Ramsbottom said Parc Prison had gone on to develop very good systems to deal with sex offenders and drug addicts and to minimise suicides and bullying among its 835 inmates. According to his report, the prison – which suffered a number of high profile problems and suicides by inmates after it opened – had “matured and progressed”.

They certainly have good PR now, hey look a literary festival which seems very progressive, now if they could just actually provide care for the mentally damaged prisoners too.

Ps. Private prisons are also bad for the workers in 2004 a report found

Average hourly basic pay for private sector prison and detention custody officers in England and Wales is 43% less than their public sector counterparts receive, a recent and as yet unpublished official study reveals.

However management saw an increase in pay, 33% for the top managers, try and act surprised.

In Cardiff prison they spend just £1.76 per day on each prisoners food. The figure for Parc is unknown as it being a private prison the figure is kept secret as it is- not a ‘public authority’ as defined by the Freedom of Information Act. Although the referenced Hansard answer claims-

the average cost for establishments operated by the contracted sector ranged from £2.10 to £3.07.

How does PFI work out for the…more fortunate? Parc is the only private prison in Wales, at the moment. A more localised institution will be better but have we assurances it will be public owned? Parc opened a month before Altcourse prison in Liverpool but was not built and designed from PFI scratch so scouseland gets the honour of the first PFI pure private prison. Behold-

The builders of Britain’s first privately financed and run prison have made more legitimate profit out of crime than the small-time crooks incarcerated there could ever dream about, a parliamentary report reveals today.

Profits from Altcourse prison in Fazakerley, Liverpool, the first prison to be built under the government’s private finance initiative, have been so enormous that the companies building it have recovered all their costs in two years.

This will leave them with 23 years of pure profit from the construction, plus extra profits to come from the running of the £247m prison for 600 local inmates. The deal – condemned by the Commons public accounts committee – was described by Alan Williams, MP for Swansea West, as “like coming up with the lottery several times a year”.

The MPs are scathing about the arrangements which led to the Home Office signing such a deal – which saved £1m compared with conventional methods of using taxpayers’ cash – and has led to a 75% rise in profits in tfour years for the consortium run by Group 4 Securitas and Tarmac Construction. Tarmac have subsequently sold its share to Carillion plc.

That Didn’t Take Long

Anglesey privatised its school meals this year and the new corporation running the service began serving kids food in September. Ok, so when it was announced-

Changes to the £1.5m Anglesey school meals contract have prompted complaints from kitchen staff and local suppliers. They fear jobs will be lost if the new contractors do not use local produce.

New contractor Eden food service said in a statement: “It is our priority to support local suppliers in Anglesey and thereafter support local producers throughout Wales.

And now just a few weeks since beginning-

PUPILS on Anglesey are being served up foreign meat by private contractors brought in to provide the school dinner service, the Daily Post can reveal. At least 11 headteachers on the island have contacted the local authority to protest that cooks are being supplied with continental beef and lamb – while Welsh farmers are ignored.

Anglesey education boss Cllr Eurfryn Davies yesterday declared it unacceptable and promised a full investigation. At the centre of the row is Berkshire-based Eden Food-service, which has just been given a three-year deal to supply Anglesey’s schools having promised to supply “fresh and local ingredients”.

So their commitment which served to quell some of the objections to the privatisation is um, a bit on the fibby side. Now the coverage is a bit ‘foreign meat’-y (which as an unnationalistic vegetarian doesn’t float my boat) they don’t get into the concept of food miles or the larger issues of privatisation and the profit motive dictating all aspects of life but you can’t have everything and maybe this will be a lesson (geddit?) to some. And privatisation will be an issue come the elections.