Royal Mail sell-off begins!

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The CWU has been campaigning against the privatisation of Royal Mail since the days of the last Labour government. The picture shows its campaign in Corby in 2009
The CWU has been campaigning against the privatisation of Royal Mail since the days of the last Labour government. The picture shows its campaign in Corby in 2009

THE Communication Workers Union (CWU) yesterday slammed the government’s announcement that it plans to begin selling off Royal Mail in the next few weeks as ‘a betrayal of the British public’.

The CWU pointed out that 70 per cent of the public are against privatisation.

Yesterday’s government announcement that an initial public offering (IPO) is ‘expected to take place in the coming weeks’ came at the very same time that 125,000 postal workers are voting on strike action.

The TUC told News Line yesterday: ‘We support the CWU’s campaign against Royal Mail privatisation.’

Earlier this week, in her address to the TUC Congress, TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: ‘We will fight this latest senseless, sell-off of the family silver – hands off Royal Mail.’

CWU general secretary Billy Hayes said ahead of a meeting of 1,500 CWU reps in Birmingham yesterday: ‘This isn’t about what’s best for the Royal Mail, it’s about the vested interests of government ministers’ mates in the City.

‘We remain convinced that privatisation is the wrong decision for Royal Mail. It would be bad for customers, bad for staff and bad for the industry.

‘Privatisation would put jobs and services at risk and lead to higher prices for customers. We’ve seen it happen time and again in other industries.

‘We’re taking this to Labour Party Conference and we want a commitment that a Labour government will renationalise Royal Mail if privatised.’

CWU deputy general secretary Dave Ward said: ‘We’re pressing ahead with our ballot of 125,000 postal workers and we will continue to fight privatisation and the potential impact of a sale on jobs, terms and conditions.

He made clear that the CWU was not fighting to stop privatisation. ‘CWU is here for the long-haul. Any owner will have to deal with issues in the industry and take the workforce with them.’

The ballot will be the first national strike ballot since 2009. Ballot papers are due to go out to 125,000 Royal Mail and Parcelforce workers on 20 September with a result to be announced on 3rd October, with the earliest strike action possible from 10 October.

Unite, which has 8,000 managers working for Royal Mail, accused the government of selling off the ‘family silver’.

Unite will be liaising with CWU on campaigning against this sale, and said that industrial action cannot be ruled out. Unite reps will be meeting for consultations early next week.

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: ‘This move is being driven by blinkered right-wing dogma that has ridden roughshod over public opinion which is strongly opposed to the sell-off of this national institution.

‘Ironically, there is no need for this sale to take place. Royal Mail is modernising and is making a profit, £430m last year, and it is improving service levels. All of this progress will now be at risk.

‘Royal Mail has already stated it will pay out over £100m to investors next year and that would be greater, if it were for a full year.

‘This appeasement of the investors will be at the expense of jobs, future terms and conditions of employment, pensions and quality of service.

‘This sale is motivated by the government’s need for cash to balance the books and nothing to do with public service. Chancellor George Osborne is grabbing at an opportunity to plug a gap in his shaky finances and does not care a jot about the short, medium or long term impact this will have.’