Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/393/4464
Royal Mail privatisation threat after workers deliver record profits
ROYAL MAIL bosses are planning to borrow £2 billion from the government so that they can partly privatise the company by giving shares to the workforce.
A Royal Mail worker and Communication Workers’ Union (CWU) member
At the same time last year’s profits have been declared as £537 million, out of which £200 million will be paid back to postal workers in the form of £1,074 bonuses. These profits have been made as a result of cost savings across all parts of the business. 33,000 jobs have been got rid of, and in the Letters part of Royal Mail, single daily delivery and the mail centre review have led to ‘efficiency’ savings, with the removal of 1,250 walks.
The "Share in Success" bonuses are one way in which Royal Mail bosses are sweetening up the workforce to accept privatisation. In the "Be in to Win" scheme, employees are offered the chance to win new cars or holidays worth up to £2,000 if they do not take any sick absence for six or 12 months.
In this year's pay round, Letters staff will receive 50% of cost savings made by their local office, and Post Office Ltd counters staff have "unlimited potential for exceeding targets".
If this sounds all too good to be true - it is! Compare the wages earned by postmen and women, counter staff and other front-line workers with the huge salaries and bonuses of senior managers. Chief executive Adam Crozier for instance ‘earned’ £3 million last year. The £537 million profits are what has been stolen from the workforce - and the management are kindly handing less than half of it back in the form of a ‘bonus’.
All this is a prelude to the government and Royal Mail preparing to privatise the industry by the back door. They are trying to soften us up so that we accept that if we are given a few shares we will all have an interest in the business.
This is nonsense. In practice, this will not result in workers' democracy but in big investors snapping up the shares at bargain-basement prices. The average postal worker will be tempted to sell their shares to supplement their low wages.
In Russia, after the restoration of capitalism, all the state-owned companies were split up and every citizen given vouchers. But unemployment was rising so fast that many workers immediately sold their vouchers to big investors such as Abramovich, who rapidly cornered the oil and gas industry.
Workers in BT and British Gas under Thatcher in the 1980s were also handed free shares - most of them looked on it as a bonus. They never had illusions that they ‘owned’ these companies - so it will be with Royal Mail.
The CWU quite correctly is opposing this back door privatisation. We should fight back by means of mass action, showing we refuse to be conned. If the government go ahead with this then the CWU should organise action against privatisation, starting with a one-day strike. It is in the interests of all workers to keep Royal Mail in the public sector.
In The Socialist 19 May 2005: