Resisting mail sell-off

Submitted by Matthew on 2 October, 2013 - 10:58

The Government has speeded up the sell-off of Royal Mail so that the shares will be sold and trading on the market before the strikes for which the Communication Workers' Union is now balloting can start.

The share offer went out on 27 September, the same day that the CWU ballot started. Applications to buy shares must be in by 8 October. The allocation of shares to buyers will be announced, and some limited trading will start, on 11 October, and then full trading on 15 October.

The CWU ballot closes on 16 October, and the first legal date for strikes will be 23 October.

Dave Chapple, Bristol CWU branch chair, told Solidarity: "Notwithstanding the fact that the Government has wrongfooted the union by bringing privatisation forward, there is still everything to play for in terms of the national dispute to protect our terms and conditions for an unprecedented ten years.

"In the course of a successful dispute to promote and achieve that aim, and notwithstanding the technical fact that privatisation has already opened, we think it can still be put in doubt that a sufficient number of high-profile firms will come forward to want to manage a business with a combative and undefeated union.

"I'm not saying this is going to happen, but it only takes 20 branches of the union to force a recall conference. In my personal opinion, that should be happening.

"The action following the ballot result has got to be serious. I'm not dying in a ditch about whether it is everybody out on the same day, or we have drivers out one day, mail centres out another, delivery office out another. There is some sense in those tactics.

"But it has to be a serious dispute, not a token dispute. One or two days national strike action can only be the start of it. We cannot possibly get anywhere with just a token dispute".

At the Labour Party conference, the CWU leaders resisted pressure from Ed Miliband to withdraw a motion committing Labour to renationalise Royal Mail. The motion then went through unanimously.

Shadow business minister Chuka Umunna did not dare argue against the CWU motion at conference, but after the conference he declared: "We are not in a position to pledge to renationalise Royal Mail if we get into government in 2015.

"I do not know how much Royal Mail shares will be trading at in May 2015, so I do not know how much it would cost to renationalise".

The short answer to that is that if Labour says it will compulsorily purchase the shares at a low price, then the shares will not rise above that price. If Umunna's philosophy were accepted, no government would ever nationalise or renationalise anything.

The labour movement should back the CWU's dispute, and demand that Labour leaders act on the conference decision.

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