Union could strike over Royal Mail sell-off

The leader of the Communication Workers Union (CWU) has said industrial action could take place over Royal Mail’s privatisation plans. CWU general secretary Billy Hayes refused to rule out the possibility of striking action over the government’s plans to sell-off the UK operator.

In October, it was confirmed that up to 90% of Royal Mail will be privatised, under the coalition government’s Postal Services Bill, which is due to return to the UK parliament on 12 January.

At the time of the announcement, business secretary Vince Cable stressed the need for ‘urgent’ private investment. The Bill states that 10% of Royal Mail’s shares would go to its employees, and there would be no upper limit to private investment on the remaining shares.

However, the CWU are concerned that the sale would undermine the universal service, lead to job cuts, and take business away from post office branches. Post Office Ltd will be separated from Royal Mail under the proposals.

Speaking to the Financial Times, Hayes said: “We want to see the modernisation of Royal Mail, but our members haven’t gone through all this pain just to see some gambler or spiv… recoup the rewards.

“In terms of our track record on privatisation, we have had three successful campaigns in terms of defeating it. It’s more difficult now, but we don’t regard it as impossible.”

The CWU ended a prolonged period of industrial action – which ran from the summer of 2009 to early 2010 – when a deal was met with Royal Mail bosses over pay, working conditions, and hours. Hayes told the newspaper that he would defend the terms of that agreement.

Striking against political decisions is illegal in the UK. However, it is believed that the CWU could work around the ruling by highlighting the danger of job losses and pension cuts.

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