Thursday, October 22, 2009

Stand up for the postal strikers

Did you know that Royal Mail's chief executive takes home £3m a year- 166 times the salary of an average postal worker?

I wasn't sure whether the two-day strike announced by postal workers would be a good idea. I wasn't sure because a) I knew nothing about the details and b) at least nine news reports out of ten that I'd spotted or overheard fed a negative angle - mainly related to Christmas cards piling up.

It's very easy to be against a strike. Most are disruptive, inconvenient, dramatic - a pain in the arse, basically. But many people don't even bother to find out why walkouts are called. It doesn't involve Number One, does it? Reading about strikes is not a 30-second job either, it's taxing and, most likely, depressing.

Because if people bothered to find out, they'd simply register that the same may happen to themselves and their own job. Mounting pressure from bosses, unrealistic targets, pushy requests for overtime, subtle and not-so-subtle bullying practices, and so on, over a long period, until you've had enough.

All of the above justified by glaze-eyed soundbites and formulas that no-one quite fully understands: modernisation is one of them, and the other is "figures are down".

But if we always just think of Number One, who's going to stand up for us when it's our job that is put on the line?

When I finally had the opportunity to read about the Royal Mail dispute, it dawned on me that, most people -including myself- don't have the slightest clue of how postal workers are organised, and yet they pontificate. This excellent article, written by a postman, opened my eyes.

Very articulate, and very easy to read, it explains exactly what's going on in their offices: the myths about the dearth of 'traditional' mail; the understaffed sorting centres; the rising volume of work; the effects of today's part-privatisation (whereby Royal Mail does the work and private mail companies take the profit); the increased use of part-timers on 'flexible' contracts being used to undercut staff; the obsession with corporate customers.

Though I wasn't at all surprised, I also found out that bosses at the Royal Mail earn obscene amounts of money. I expected a lot, but not as much. Adam Crozier, the chief executive, takes home £3m a year, 166 times the salary of an average postal worker. It is estimated that his money alone could save at least 167 post offices around Britain. Just to give you a perspective, last year, total profits at Royal Mail tallied £321m. Staff got a pay freeze this year and managers got massive bonuses worth thousands of pounds.

And I thought, how can we -the public- become desensitised to such humongous salaries at the top while the same companies talk of redundancies and modernisation? Surely not giving out billions just like that should become the priority, right? Surely we can understand why postal workers have had enough?


Ben E said...

£3m is nearly one tenth of £321m - not the other way round. It's still an obscene amount of money for a company that is having to make 'efficiencies'.

PH said...

Er, it's nearly one hundredth, actually.

One interesting judge of a strike is how many people the news agencies find who really don't want to go on strike.

I haven't seen any.

claude said...

Oops...terrible lapse there on my part...

claude said...

The mistake has been corrected. Those figures were totally out of whack.

Anonymous said...

There's nothing that quite brings together politicians, metropolitan media and corporate barons in a chorus of self-righteous rage and wishful thinking like the prospect of low-paid manual workers going on strike to defend their interests

Seumas Milne, today in the Guardian.