3-DAY BELGIAN POSTAL STRIKE! – against the privateers

Postal workers in the UK marching in Milton Keynes to defend their Mail Centre
Postal workers in the UK marching in Milton Keynes to defend their Mail Centre

Over 30,000 Belgian postal workers began a three-day strike yesterday against privatisation to defend their jobs, pay and working conditions.

Postal unions held a demonstration through the capital Brussels.

‘Two thousand marched through the streets of Brussels today,’ CGT trade union secretary-general Josef de Donckel told News Line.

‘The strike is very successful.

‘We will be striking again for the next two days.

‘Tonight it will be the sorting offices on strike so no post will move.’

Many small post offices are being closed and thousands of delivery office workers are due to be replaced by temporary workers on lower wages.

The move is part of the ‘liberalisation’ of Europe’s mail market in 2011.

Belgian national post service, La Poste, is one of the European mail operators that have been linked with buying a stake in Royal Mail in a sell-off by the Brown government.

UK postal workers have sent their greetings to their striking Belgian brothers and sisters.

Mole Meade, CWU South East London Post and Counters Chair said: ‘The time has come for people to recognise the importance of the postal service to local communities.

‘Government’s around the world, not just Europe, should stop selling off the family silver.

‘We concur completely with the Belgian post workers position, because we feel the same way ourselves.

‘May they be successful in their campaign.’

The Belgian post unions have been infuriated over Danish Post’s selling of its 24.9 per cent stake in La Poste to private equity firm CVC Partners for 373 million euros (£330m), and gaining a profit of more than 200 million euros in three years.

CVC, meanwhile, has sold its 22 per cent stake in Danish Post to the state-owned Swedish operator, Posten.

Danish Post is one of those interested in buying a stake in Royal Mail.

Danish Post is merging with Posten.

It paid about 150 million euros for its stake in the Swedish operator in a joint venture with CVC in 2006 that took 50 per cent, minus one share, in La Poste.

The Belgian state owns 50 per cent plus one share and must approve any change in the ownership structure.

European operators eyeing Royal, Mail are Sweden’s Posten, Germany’s part-privatised Deutsche Post, and Dutch operator TNT.

Belgium’s La Poste has denied it will bid for a stake in the UK post service.

• Second news story


German carmaker Opel is to be spun off because General Motors has no interest in maintaining it, it emerged yesterday.

Opel announced last week that it needed the money to avert job losses and plant closures, and GM said they could not finance it.

Opel has since been in talks with Germany’s economy minister about a 3.3bn euro (£2.93bn; $4.16bn) cash injection from the German government after GM Europe proposed last week that Opel should be partly separated from its parent company’s US operations.

Economy minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg yesterday refused to be rushed into a decision about state aid and said he would conduct ‘a very far-reaching examination’ of Opel’s proposals.

The minister will meet with Opel chief executive Hans Demant and GM Europe president Carl-Peter Forster in Berlin.

The US carmaker, which was pipped by Toyota as the world’s top-selling car firm earlier this year, is trying to wind down parts of its European operations as part of a massive cost-cutting exercise.

•Insurance giant AIG has reported a loss of $61.7bn (£43bn) in the final three months of 2008 – the largest quarterly loss in corporate history. And the firm will receive an extra $30bn from the US government as part of a revamped rescue package.

AIG has already received $150bn in financial support – the biggest bail-out by far of any US company.

Stock markets slid sharply as AIG’s plight underscored fears about the health of the global financial system.

The Federal Reserve and the Treasury said that AIG posed a ‘system risk’ to the global financial system.

• History was made yesterday when the Dow Jones Index fell below 7,000 points, it’s lowest since 1997, representing a fall in American share prices of around 50 per cent in the last two years.