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Keep Royal Mail Public

Following the publication of the Postal Services Bill, the postal workers union, the CWU, has criticised the Coalition Government’s obsession with privatisation and warns that customers and post offices will suffer as a result of privatisation. Billy Hayes, CWU general secretary, said:

The government has wasted no time in flogging off the country’s state assets without exploring other options. This obsession with privatisation is deeply worrying. Handing postal services over to the City spivs and gamblers that Vince Cable recently denounced, but is now feeding, will be bad news for everyone.

Royal Mail can remain profitable in the public sector under an alternative model. If the company has the freedom to borrow money from sources other than government and the issues of regulation are resolved, then privatisation becomes an unnecessary ideological distraction.

Universal services will be reduced by a privatised company interested in the bottom line, not the communities served by Royal Mail. The separation of Royal Mail from the post office counters is a fatal step. The commercial imperative will be for a privatised Royal Mail to use retail services other than the Post Office. A seven-year guarantee is a seven-year death sentence for local branches.

Every major opinion poll in the last 20 years shows a majority against the privatisation of Royal Mail. Even a majority of Lib Dem and Conservative Party voters are against. The government is taking on public opinion at its peril.”

As Andy Newman points out on Socialist Unity:

Hayes is absolutely correct here. A YouGov poll at the beginning of October found that voters for all parties are opposed to privatising Royal Mail. Even 42 per cent of Conservative voters are against privatising Royal Mail with only 36 per cent in favour. Of Lib Dem voters, 56 per cent are opposed and 70 per cent of Labour voters also opposed to the move.

In total, less than a quarter (23 per cent) of voters supported privatising Royal Mail showing that there is very little public support for this move. When it came to questions of service and cost, voters believe that postal services will deteriorate and prices will go up under privatisation. 72 per cent of all voters and 67 per cent of Conservative voters said that they thought prices would go up if Royal Mail was privatised.

Nearly half of all voters (48 per cent) believe postal services will get worse under privatisation, with even Conservative expecting postal services to get worse if Royal Mail is privatised (37 per cent in comparison to 34 per cent expecting services to improve).

Dave Ward, CWU deputy general secretary, said:

In partnership with CWU, Royal Mail is modernising successfully in the public sector. We’ve worked hard to improve industrial relations and tackle the big issues in the industry. Privatisation will threaten all this progress.

We have argued for government to accept their responsibility and deal with the pensions deficit, but we’re concerned about what these proposals really mean for our members’ benefits. On shares, our members will know that there are no free gifts. If it really is about engaging and motivating employees there are far better ways to achieve this.

We’re very concerned that privatisation will undermine the whole concept of a universal service. In turn, this will put even more pressure to cut jobs and services.”

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