Suffolk/Essex: Bid to allay postal sell-off fears

Fears of Royal Mail sell-off quashed

Fears of Royal Mail sell-off quashed - Credit: PA

Fears rural communities in Suffolk and Essex could see postal services scaled back with a sell-off of Royal Mail have been quashed by the Government.

Business minister Michael Fallon said the current six-day-a-week delivery and universal price would not be affected by a change in ownership.

But Ian Longman, branch secretary of the Eastern region Communication Workers’ Union (CWU), said he was still concerned a private owner would want to change the delivery rules if it found it was “not viable” to deliver to rural areas.

He also raised concerns about the pay and conditions of workers.

The Government has announced that up to 150,000 Royal Mail staff would be handed thousands of pounds in free shares as part of the controversial privatisation.

It said 10% of the new company would be gifted to employees under the £3billion sell-off, which will begin over the next year.

The plans will see a majority stake sold off, with the remaining shares available to the general public as well as institutional investors under the terms of the initial public offering (IPO).

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Mr Fallon insisted that a universal service and price would be “fully protected” and moves to reduce deliveries could only happen if parliament voted for the change.

He added: “You’ve seen the price of the first-class stamp go up – they have freedom to increase it.

“It’s the price of the second-class stamp that will continue to be regulated and protected. People depend on it, particularly in rural areas.”

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb, who initially proposed the idea to privatise the Royal Mail in 2005/6 while he was Liberal Democrat trade and industry spokesman said when the coalition came into office the Royal Mail had a “vast” £10bn deficit.

CWU deputy general secretary Dave Ward said the union would be balloting for strike action. “That’s about our members’ terms and conditions, I want to make that clear.

“It’s about what we fear will happen with Royal Mail as a private operator.

“What we want is a legal binding agreement that protects their terms and conditions, their contracts of employment, their pensions, for the foreseeable future.”

The National Federation of Subpostmasters (NFSP) added that the Government was taking an “utterly reckless gamble” with the future of the post office network by going ahead with plans to sell Royal Mail.

NFSP general secretary George Thomson said: “Our post offices are already facing a highly precarious future.

“If privatisation goes ahead, we have very real fears that the Royal Mail will rip up its current agreement with Post Office Ltd in an aggressive bid to maximise profits for its shareholders.

“Subpostmasters, who are already experiencing collapsing incomes and rising operating costs, will simply not be able to continue to run their post offices. “