Socialist Worker

Post sell-off is attack on jobs and service

by Yuri Prasad
Issue No. 2141

Government plans to privatise Royal Mail have the potential to become for Gordon Brown what the poll tax was to Margaret Thatcher.

They could even be what the Iraq war was to Tony Blair – a policy so widely hated that it threatens the very stability of the government.

Polls show that more than 80 percent of the public are deeply opposed to post privatisation.

The plans have created a huge row throughout the Labour Party, with more than 130 Labour MPs signing an Early Day Motion that demands Royal Mail is kept entirely in public ownership.

Nevertheless Brown and his henchman, business secretary Lord Mandelson, pushed ahead last week, introducing a bill that will allow them to sell a third of the company to the private sector.

Tories and Lib Dems gleefully rushed to offer Mandelson their backing, pointing out that the legislation could, in future, allow an even greater stake in Royal Mail to be sold without another parliamentary vote.

Outrage at post privatisation has swept the labour movement, with all the major union leaders voicing their opposition and claiming that a decision to press ahead could cost Labour the next election.

Mandelson’s response to the outcry has been to argue that privatisation is the only way for Royal Mail to “modernise” and “become more efficient” – and to safeguard the future of the company’s troubled pension scheme.

The words “modernisation” and “efficiency” will be familiar to anyone with experience of defending public utilities. They are euphemisms for culling jobs, cutting pay and destroying services.

And the issue of the deficit in Royal Mail’s pension schemes is clearly being used as blackmail against those who resist privatisation.

The government-commissioned Hooper review into the future of postal services claims Royal Mail is less efficient than private sector mail firms in Europe because high wages mean it makes less profit.

Yet basic take home pay for a postal delivery worker outside London is just £282 for a 40-hour, six-day week. This makes Royal Mail employees among the poorest paid workers in Britain.

The government wants to open the door to venture capital vultures and European postal operators who have a track record of driving down pay and attacking conditions.

Workers at Belgium’s De Post/La Poste this week started a campaign of strike action against pay cuts, job losses and privatisation. In Germany, private firms opposed the introduction of a minimum wage for postal workers by threatening sackings.

These are among the companies that are keen to bid for a share of Royal Mail.

However, not everyone at Royal Mail is worried about pay and job security.

It was revealed this week that the company’s chief executive, Adam Crozier, is doing his bit to rival the disgraced heads of Britain’s banking industry.

His pay, bonuses and pensions package amounted to £3.5 million last year, with Royal Mail’s contribution to his pension nest egg rising from 20 percent of his wages to almost 50 percent.


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