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Defending public services means defeating New Labour

Interviewed about the postal dispute, Royal Mail boss Adam Crozier said what post office customers want is a modern post office and a “modern trade union”.

But what the customers actually want is a publicly-owned, publicly-run post office that puts service before profit.

Under New Labour modern means profit-making and privatisation. Modern means low wages and areas that are not profitable cut to the bone. It means more post offices being closed in poor areas and rural areas and the ordinary postal service cut back to once a day.

And a modern union? A modern union is one that acts as a façade of representation behind which mass redundancies and worse working conditions are imposed.

Postal workers stepped back from a national strike earlier this year having learned from the firefighters’ dispute that there is no compromise on offer for public sector workers under New Labour. That message has even more force this week as the firefighters discover that their pay rise is not to be implemented without further deals on modernisation – that is cuts and greater risk to the public.

Railway workers too have seen New Labour impose “modernisation” of the tube – we have seen the outcomes at Chancery Lane and other rail accidents. The modernisation of the railways equals ongoing opportunities for private companies to milk the public whilst safety and reliability are worse.

“Wild cat strikes” in the post office, on the tube and now again in the fire stations express the growing anger of workers in the public sector. But the public sector unions should not leave their members to go it alone, hiding behind the legal risks to their funds and wasting time on meaningless negotiations. The well-worn pavement outside ACAS is littered with the shattered hopes of public sector workers for a better deal.

Instead the public sector unions should suspend all payments to New Labour and form an alliance to campaign for an alternative. There is a great opportunity to build a united front of trade unionists campaigning against the market economy and for public services run for the common good.

The NEPD invites all trade unionists to sign up for, and start preparing for, our conference in 2004 which will look at alternative political representation and economic democracy.

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