Mark Steel: Royal Mail is to blame for our broken society (obviously)

We can already see the 'modernisation' the Government wants from posties

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"The Post office unions can't obstruct modernisation," insists Peter Mandelson. That must be why Mandelson has the thoroughly modern job title of Lord, because he's not afraid to modernise. And no one could accuse his place of work, the House of Lords, of resisting modernisation. Every member of staff is at the cutting edge of new technology, making use of the very latest developments in ermine gowns, and overmanning is unheard of as every single Lord is essential and oozes infectious youthful hereditary energy for the benefit of Britain.

If only the Post Office unions would agree to being that modern, then their sacks would be carried by equerries, and attendance would be around 5 per cent of the workforce, who would take it in turns to stand up with a parcel, shake it for a couple of minutes, then say "Am I delivering this or receiving it, I don't recall?" and sit down again.

Presumably, what is meant by "modernise" is privatised. Then, as they're delivering your mail postmen can say "Would you like a pastry with your bills this morning? No? In that case are you aware I could also supply you with gas?" And each postman could get sponsorship, and cycle along whistling 'You can't get quicker than a Kwik Fit fitter'. Eventually they'll be properly modern, like the water companies who were fined £12m for providing a dreadful service and lying to cover it up, or the hugely popular gas companies.

We can already see the types of modernisation the Government would like to apply. For example they got rid of that antiquated system in rural areas where the elderly would queue in a ramshackle old Post Office for their pension, by shutting the things down. And in a marvellous example of joined-up government, soon the elderly won't be any worse off because their pensions will be scrapped anyway, saving them a walk, and encouraging them to modernise because it's no good wandering about being 82 in a modern environment.

So the management at Royal Mail, and the Government, want to cut jobs, freeze pay and change the working conditions for the staff, which has led to the current strikes. And that means certain papers are already exploding with stories that start "Britain's 103-year-olds are to be targeted by callous striking union members. 'Christmas cards are all I have to live for', said Ethel Dibbet from her nursing home, 'But this year I suppose I'll have to go without, what with them blooming selfish postmen with their unrealistic demands and obstinate Luddite refusal to ruddy well modernise'."

The Times had a headline telling us the strike would "Lose £100m in revenues" for the Government, which seems a lot until they explain this is because they'll have to waive the £100 fine for late tax returns, that could have been imposed on a million people. But surely The Times, and David Cameron, should be delighted about this, praising the union for helping to stamp out the red tape that holds back business.

You can see why there's such enthusiasm for taking on the post unions, because these are the people whose excess has got us into such a financial mess. Ask anyone "Whose greed caused the economic crash"? and they'll say "Investment postmen, they're the bastards." And we've all heard tales of them gloating down the sorting office, about how they'd just finished Gresham Street when they heard about the run on the futures market in Hong Kong, nipped down the stock market on their bicycle, did three dings on their bell to signal "sell" to the traders, picked up £10m and nipped back just in time to finish Parsley Avenue.

There is one other possibility, which is the Royal Mail management and the Government are trying to break the union altogether, which would explain why they've drawn up plans to impose the changes without the union's agreement, leaving the management free to impose whatever sackings or pay cuts they fancied at any time. And to be fair, you can see why the head of Royal Mail, Adam Crozier, might consider a union unnecessary, as he managed to get himself a deal worth £9m over six years without one.

It might also explain their aggressive stance, which has gone as far as cancelling their annual anti-bullying week, although one-third of staff say they've witnessed bullying managers. Or maybe Mandelson has insisted the management modernises bullying, so instead of calling staff in to be told they're slow and useless, they'll now be told they're fat ugly pigs on Twitter.

And if Royal Mail get their way, we could find the local sorting office turned into modern themed apartments, and we'll have to collect all of our parcels from a centralised modern digital automated package centre in a retail park in Bangalore.

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