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Page last updated at 11:16 GMT, Sunday, 18 October 2009 12:16 UK

Royal Mail staffing 'unhelpful'

On Sunday 18 October Andrew Marr interviewed CWU general secretary Billy Hayes.

Please note 'The Andrew Marr Show' must be credited if any part of this transcript is used.

ANDREW MARR:

CWU general secretary Billy Hayes

Now, as we've heard in the news, Royal Mail is recruiting 30,000 extra workers to try to minimise the effect of the national postal strike, which begins this week. Billy Hayes runs the Postal Workers' Union and CWU. Good morning. Thank you for coming in.

BILLY HAYES:

Good morning.

ANDREW MARR:

Do you regard these 30,000 people as strike breakers?

BILLY HAYES:

I don't think it's helpful. I mean what we should be about is getting a resolution to the dispute. But this is the kind of management that Lord Mandelson has criticised during the summer as a kind of almost dictatorship we're witnessing in Royal Mail now, so I don't think it's helpful at all.

ANDREW MARR:

But if they bring in these people - they say it's not trying to undermine the strike, it's simply trying to deal with the backlog caused by it - do you think there's any danger of confrontation between your members and the people being brought in?

BILLY HAYES:

Well there's been no evidence of that in the local disputes and I don't anticipate that. But the fact is what I'd sooner Royal Mail be doing is negotiating seriously about trying to find the resolution to this dispute. I don't think it's helpful, but, as I say, I think it's kind of the management we've witnessed in Royal Mail for the last few years.

ANDREW MARR:

I'd like to come onto some of the ramifications of the dispute in a moment, but to what extent is part of the problem the way the postal system has been part privatised because, as I understand it, companies like UK Mail and lots of private companies are making reasonably healthy profits by moving large bulk orders of parcels and mail from one area to another, but it's the posties who end up delivering them on the local round and that's why they say they've got a higher workload?

BILLY HAYES:

Well that's exactly right, it's draining off Royal Mail's finances. And so, for example, your postwoman or postman is delivering more mail now than say five years ago, but what's happened is the big companies are siphoning off the profitable parts of the Post Office. You know we've been liberalised in the UK well in advance of any other European company (sic Country) - so, yeah, they're carrying the competition's mail to the final mile, as it's called.

ANDREW MARR:

Now you have won a majority for the strike vote and you've said to that extent you are in a more powerful position than Arthur Scargill was. Of course what happened to Arthur Scargill's industry was that it went. Deep mining went after that strike. Are you not in a position in your industry where the real future of the Royal Mail is under threat because people are simply going to other … they're using email and they're using private deliveries?

BILLY HAYES:

Well that's just media fluff, the comparison. The fact is Royal Mail has got a good future. It needs to embrace new technology, it needs to modernise, it needs investment. You know the government has got a hand in this. I mean the government recognise that the pension fund deficit, which is currently 3.5 billion, is siphoning, is affecting Royal Mail's finances. So it's got a healthy future, Royal Mail. There's no question about that.

ANDREW MARR:

But when you talk about modernisation, that does mean job losses in the end.

BILLY HAYES:

Well you know Adam Crozier himself on the Jeff Reynolds (sic Jeff Randall) Show said that 63,000 jobs have gone out the industry. Yes, there's going to be less jobs, but what we need Royal Mail to be is a standard bearer of what the postal industry should be and good terms and conditions need to go with that.

ANDREW MARR:

And yet the public anger about this is very great among small businesses, ordinary people wanting to post their Christmas cards, not getting things that they've ordered through the post already at the moment. Lord Mandelson has said this is suicidal.

BILLY HAYES:

Well you know our postal workers, our members see more small businesses in one week than Peter Mandelson sees in a year and they know what the impact of a strike's going to have. We don't welcome this disruption, but we have to do something when Royal Mail fail, seem to be incapable of reaching an agreement with the union. They seem to rule everything out, whether it's an independent inquiry, it's bullying and harassment, whether it's an independent inquiry into workloads, whether we say make a joint approach to the government. They rule everything out and they blame everybody but themselves.

ANDREW MARR:

But they say that you've been invited to endless meetings with them to discuss this and haven't turned up.

BILLY HAYES:

I don't … Again I reject that. Our negotiators were in on Friday. They'll be in tomorrow morning seeking an agreement. It's welcome what Peter Mandelson says about ACAS. You know we need to get a third party in. And I'd just ask people to consider this. Every single time we ask somebody to come in from outside, we get met with rejection. So we say let's have an inquiry into bullying harassment. Don't want to know.

ANDREW MARR:

Is it certain, in your view, that the strike on Thursday's going to go ahead?

BILLY HAYES:

Well we're heading towards it. I mean the fact of the matter is this. We want a resolution. We're about getting agreements. My job is to negotiate on behalf of the workforce and to represent their interest. And I'm quite happy for any third party to come in, look at what we've done. We're not saying we're blameless, we're not saying everything lies at the fault of management, but what we are saying - let's have third parties in, let's have third parties in to look at bullying harassment, workloads and the rest.

ANDREW MARR:

If Lord Mandelson or another minister call you and Adam Crozier together, would you go?

BILLY HAYES:

Yes.

ANDREW MARR:

And if that happened and you were told that you had to accept some job losses as part of the modernisation, could you go that far?

BILLY HAYES:

Well, as I said Adam, we've … Andrew … we said 63,000 jobs have gone out the industry in the last five years. We recognise there's going to be job losses. This is not about job losses. This is about a culture of management who seem to think in a democracy the workforce just have to do what they're told. So we're about we recognise there's going to be job losses in the future.

ANDREW MARR:

And these 30,000 extra people coming in - do you regard that as a sensitive moment obviously, as an inflammatory move?

BILLY HAYES:

I think it's a stupid move more than anything else. I think it's something that's not going to help resolve the dispute. It's going to inflame things. Our people will have to deal with it and we'll have to get on with it, but I'd sooner Adam Crozier and his team were getting a negotiating table - and I'm quite happy to meet Adam, Peter or whoever to resolve the dispute. We're about resolving the dispute and that's what I want to do.

ANDREW MARR:

Mr Hayes, for now thank you very much indeed for joining me.

INTERVIEW ENDS




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