Socialist Worker

Post union must use its power to stop sell-off

by Yuri Prasad
Issue No. 2102

Not content with allowing Royal Mail to close hundreds of post offices around the country as part of a bid to become more market friendly, the government is said to be considering plans to part-privatise the entire postal service.

The plan- which is being fronted by Postcomm, the postal services regulator- calls for the government to sell 49 percent of its shares in Royal Mail as part of an effort to gain an injection of private cash.

Postcomm, which has been a regular source of propaganda for the further “liberalisation” of postal services, points to the way postal services in Denmark and Sweden are run as a possible model for Britain.

Chairman Nigel Stapleton said, “Postcomm wants to see Royal Mail embrace a partnership approach with the private sector to secure a universal service valued by all users and provided at least cost, without public funding.”

The plan comes just a week after an independent panel concluded that allowing private firms to enter the postal market in competition with Royal Mail had produced little or no benefit to households or small businesses.


According to the panel, Royal Mail’s loss of many bulk mail contracts to private firms, combined with an obligation to deliver their competitor’s mail at a loss to itself, was leading to an unsustainable position.

The panel’s interim report warned of a “substantial threat” to Royal Mail’s financial security and the universal service obligation, which guarantees collection and delivery to all addresses in Britain.

Last week the company announced that it has run up £200 million of losses from its regulated letters and parcels business.

Billy Hayes, the general secretary of the postal workers’ CWU union, reacted angrily to regulator’s proposal.

He said, “Postcomm has consistently been obsessed with the drive to develop the competition model and calling for privatisation is just another step.”

While the government toys with privatisation Royal Mail is already busy making itself more “market friendly” by planning the closure of many of its mail centres.

Last week the company announced the closure of its mail centre in Oxford.

There are open threats to other centres in Coventry, Milton Keynes, Liverpool, Northampton, Reading and Stockport.

Many activists believe Royal Mail plans to go much further and close dozens of centres.

In Oxford the closure announcement was met by an impromptu union meeting in the mail centre car park.

Bob Cullen, the CWU union’s area processing rep for Oxford, told Socialist Worker, “Almost the entirety of the evening shift walked out to hear what the union was saying. The fact that so many came shows what the mood is.


“But people are aware that we can’t fight this closure programme branch by branch. We need a national response, and the national union must start to use its clout.

“Our branch has a motion to next month’s national CWU conference calling for a co-ordinated fightback.

“We have to show the members that we are deadly serious about fighting over these closures, and the wave of attacks on those working in delivery offices.

“If we do that, we will be able to win them to a fight against privatisation too.”

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Article information

Tue 20 May 2008, 18:46 BST
Issue No. 2102
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