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Tuesday, 29 September, 1998, 13:26 GMT 14:26 UK
'Keep the faith' on Post Office
Peter Mandelson: "I feel the pain"
Unions have challenged Trade and Industry Secretary Peter Mandelson to keep the faith and not privatise the Post Office.

Derek Hodgson, general secretary of the Communication Workers' union, attacked party spin doctors and rumours that the government was looking at selling off the service.

His speech received a rousing standing ovation from areas of the hall in marked contrast to the seated applause Mr Mandelson received.

The exchange repeated scenes at the TUC conference two weeks ago where Mr Mandelson was urged to calm union fears on privatisation plans.

Mr Hodgson said: "No more speculation, no more spin, no decay, carry out the policy, keep the faith with those who have loyally supported you and tell us the Post Office is not going to be privatised or broken up with shares."

Mr Hodgson condemned rumours which wanted to destroy the "proud public service industry" by privatisation or priority share sales.

Tough times ahead

His attack on spin doctors who were using the issue as a political football received cheers and whistles from delegates.

Mr Mandelson told the conference there would be tough months ahead on the road to building a more successful economy in his speech.

Labour had inherited a far from golden economic legacy from the Conservative government.

But the government would combine fairness and competitiveness to create a world leading economy.

Mr Mandelson told the conference that tough times were ahead.

He said: "I feel for the pain of those touched by these difficult times.

"Unemployment is never a price worth paying. Never."

'Work smarter, not harder'

He said he had one clear ambition for the country - Britain must start building things for itself again.

Labour would build an economy which combined the vitality of United States and the productivity of Germany but to succeed it was necessary to overcome the legacy of a country in relative industrial decline.

Mr Mandelson said after nine weeks at the DTI he had become an "industrial revolutionary"

He talked at length about transforming old and creating new jobs and the need to embrace the information age.

"Work smarter, not harder," he said.

Mr Mandelson also addressed conference on need to encourage enterprise.

Fairness at Work

Morris: Thank you for the principle
But it was on the treatment of the unions that created most reaction from the floor which led to calls on assurances that the Fairness at Work white paper would not be watered down.

Mr Mandelson told delegates: "The Tories set out with ruthlessness to weaken the already weak, creating the basic imbalance at the workplace that Fairness at Work, I personally guarantee, will correct.

"And we are not making these changes just because the trade unions want them. We're doing them because they're right.

"Because in the modern world you can't build success on the old fashioned doctrines of 'us and them' or on the back of working conditions that fail to meet decent minimum standards."

Transport and General Workers Union leader Bill Morris said: "This white paper must be the first step, it cannot be the last word.

"Thank you for the principle stating which gives us fairness sand decency in and out of the workplace. Thank you for the principle for rights to people and rights for trade unions.

"Thank you for the principle of giving us family friendly policies, challenging and defending real family values."

But the government could not now go back on its promises, he said.

The unions also regretted thresholds for union recognition and opposed suggestions to remove any proposals to have limitless industrial compensation.

He said: "This white paper represents a done deal, I seek your assurance it will be implemented in full."

See also:

28 Sep 98 | UK Politics
28 Sep 98 | Science/Nature

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