David Blackburn

Lost in the post | 19 October 2009

Lost in the post | 19 October 2009
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It is much to my regret, but I do not know the postman’s name. In fact, I have never met him or her because the post is delivered after I have left for work. I suspect that a large majority of people are in the same boat. That so few of us have any contact with our postman undoes Jackie Ashley’s ‘Support your local postie’ argument in today’s Guardian. She writes:

‘After the shock of the credit crunch, I thought we were pulling back from the age of neoliberal market worship and rethinking the value of reassuring institutions. With the disappearance of the milkman, the postie has a vital role in the community.’

It will take more than an all-singing, all-dancing postman, tapping on the door at 7am, to restore a sense of community in Britain, and concerted community renewal will not save the Post Office unless Billy Hayes stops his Arthur Scargill impersonation. Evidently, members of the Communication Workers Union have grievances over pensions and management reforms, but they are being sold up the river by egomaniacal union leaders, intent on confrontation, not compromise, with a determined and distastefully ruthless management. Hayes’ pompous suggestion that he is “stronger than Arthur Scargill”, which he delivered in the style of a pantomime villain, is as absurd as Alex Salmond’s desire to see “Westminster hanging from a Scottish rope,” whilst dancing to a Scottish jig.

An agreement on reform was reached in 2007, public opinion is behind the management and union leaders are unwise to seek concessions at the eleventh hour. Whilst Hayes is correct that mail, unlike coal, is hard to stock-pile, somebody else can deliver it. Royal Mail’s decision to hire 30,000 temporary workers is a brutal move, but therein lies the problem for the CMU. There are private and technological alternatives to the Royal Mail, and the Post Office has to reform to survive in this changed environment.