CWU East London Postal Branch Banner
CWU East London Postal Branch Banner

I have had a very busy year. Quite a few things have happened politically, but a lot has not always changed for the better for society as a whole.

Our Union has still been strong and active and the way in which our members stick together makes me feel so proud of our Union, and wherever I go I can never speak highly enough of our members. To me their actions are the real spirit of the Labour and Trade Union movement. Although a Labour Party member, I always make it clear that it is our members who are my real comrades.

Labour Conference 2018

I was the delegate from the Dagenham and Rainham Constituency Labour Party at the end of summer last year. The conference was very positive and had the mood of a government in waiting. I went to the CWU night at the Conference, and met with many representatives from across the CWU and from the trade union movement generally.

I also had an informal meeting with our General Secretary Dave Ward along with seeing him several times at the Conference. I was very impressed with him, as a very down to earth person. Dave is a great listener and welcomes new ideas along with knowing the pressures our members are under. With our Union as a whole, Dave is very supportive of Jeremy Corbyn, and along with a more progressive and worker friendly Labour Party, Dave has policies and a vision for the industries our union represents.

Shaping the Future

Dave has been active in shaping Labour Policy in favour of our members’ interests. The new proposal for a People’s Bank run by the Post Office is an example of this. It offers some future for our diminished Counters section and potentially puts life back into high streets. Along with the plans for a publicly owned Royal Mail, but this time with a real input from its staff, this is the most positive policy the Labour Party has had for our industry in a long time.

I did say to him that an incoming Labour government could also bring in measures that meant all postal firms would have to meet the same standards as Royal Mail both in the quality of delivery as well as the pay and conditions of staff. This would stop the race to the bottom that currently exists because of the variety of postal companies now in existence.

Time to Have a Member Input to the Labour Party

The input in the Labour Party needs to come not only via our delegation to the Labour Conference, but more importantly by our Union and its members taking up its quota of delegates to Constituency Labour Party meetings. This means members playing an active role and putting forward motions etc when possible.

While I am pleased with the Union’s support for Labour both publicly and financially, that alone will not win a general election. Dave cannot do all this on his own, and he did take my point that a last minute, though very good, magazine page encouraging the members to vote Labour, the day before the General election, was not going to get enough of our members and their families to support Labour.

A last minute appeal was not good enough or the way our union normally runs campaigns. The Union has run some very good campaigns, but a political campaign should also involve floor meetings, gate meetings and posters on the Union notice boards etc, months before an election if possible. The importance of the Labour policies for our industry can then be explained with questions asked about them.

Those of us that are old hands at winning elections know that you do not wake up on the day of an election and think it is all won. Too many of our members vote for right wing parties or don’t vote at all. So if Labour at last has a policy to help our members, and is worth supporting, then to use the well-known phrase, “If a job is worth doing its worth doing well”.

We always have to remember that the ‘establishment’ will do all it can to stop a Labour Government that wants to act in favour of working people, coming to power. As they control everything including the BBC and the media in general, their aim is to poison and brainwash people against Labour. So a victory worth having does not come about easily.

The EU

I was hoping after the June 2016 referendum that leaving would be done and dusted by now, and we could get on with a straight fight between Labour and the Tories, but that hasn’t happened and both major parties have been all over the place about it, despite both the Labour Party and the Tories standing on a platform of respecting the vote of the 2016 referendum at the 2017 General Election.

There has been very little intelligent debate about this whole subject from a trade union point of view, with only a small number of Unions putting the workers case for leaving the EU. While I can understand that many Labour people might see the Leave argument as getting into bed with the likes of very anti trade union upper class caricatures like Jacob Rees-Mogg and Boris Jonson as very unpalatable, I voted as a socialist to come out. I was never in favour of it from the very beginning, particularly when I saw the destruction of food such as apple trees in Kent being cut down to conform to Common Market (as it was then) apple rules. Also, big business has used freedom of movement across Europe to drive down pay and conditions by having an instant supply of cheap labour. It is understandable that many of those in certain European countries should look to get out of their desperate economic situation. For many of those country austerity never ends and the EU has not helped their countries to overcome the situation.

One of the many reasons that traditional Labour areas voted to come out is that they have seen the complete decay of their areas through empty shops on their high street and the de-industrialisation that has taken place over the 45 years that we have been in the EU, leaving little hope for so many. Seeing well-off people telling them how great the EU has been for them didn’t exactly excite them to vote to stay in. Housing is another crisis issue for so many these days as well.

I need to stress, that not all problems are because of the EU, and we will not suddenly all wake up, having left, and find everything wonderful the day after leaving, but it is about defending what little democracy we have here and it is only the labour movement that can defend us and get real improvements Many of our predecessors were prepared to die in the last world war to defend our interests and many did.

To completely allow some unelected Eurocrats and bankers to overrule us when they have no concern for the interests of working people, is completely wrong!

All genuine Labour members must remember that if a Labour government were to attempt to take anything in to public ownership, Royal Mail for example, this would be likely to break the EU state-aid rules because it could be seen as giving an unfair financial advantage to one company over another. Also, if it was decided that in the interests of efficiency, we wanted to have the whole postal industry in one company, it could be seen as breaking the EU competition rules.

I have had the misfortune of meeting some of the pro-EU supporters and they have had nothing to offer working people like myself apart from having the nerve to call me a racist and insult me personally, so it all baffles me how anybody who considers themselves a socialist or progressive, in any way, could ever support such a shower of Blairites in the EU.

You don’t have to look far to our nearest country, France, to see what EU leaders would resort to in order to smash workers livelihoods. So my message is come and get active to support Labour, a Labour Party that will support our members for the first time in years.

Councillor Lee Waker

CWU – Political Officer | East London Postal Branch

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