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TUC and Labour - say no to Royal Mail privatisation

3rd September 2013

CWU leaders will be seeking the support of both the TUC and Labour Party for the fight against Royal Mail privatisation in September, when congress and conference delegates will be urged to back motions opposing the controversial sale.

The CWU's motion to TUC, which will be moved by deputy general secretary Dave Ward, calls on the six-million strong union federation to: "Support the campaign to Save Our Royal Mail" and asks every one of the 54 affiliated unions to "participate in its activities."

Congress delegates, who will assemble in Bournemouth next week, will also be asked to give their backing to the CWU's 4,000 Post Office members, who have taken 11 days of strike action since Easter in their fight for fair pay, job security and the defence of the network.

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Later this month, CWU general secretary Billy Hayes will ask Labour Party members to re-affirm their solid anti-privatisation position, and to commit the next Labour government to returning Royal Mail to public ownership if the current government carries out the sale.

Speaking to yesterday's CWU national postal briefing, Billy explained: "We've got a contemporary motion, but sometimes not every contemporary motion is heard. So we need support from some of the larger unions to ensure our motion remains on the agenda."

"There are indications that both Unite and the GMB may support our motion, and this will be extremely welcome and helpful."

The general secretary also asked all CWU members who belong to the Labour Party to seek the support of their local CLPs for the motion, adding that this would also increase its chances of being debated at the Brighton conference.

"We've also got a Labour Party Conference Fringe meeting planned in the town on the 23 September, which is the Monday of conference, and we want to encourage as many people as possible to come along," Billy continued.

There will also be 'Save Our Royal Mail' fringe meetings at both Liberal Democrat and Conservative party conferences, with panels set to debate the arguments for and against privatisation.

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Yesterday's CWU briefing also heard Dave Ward set out the timetable for the forthcoming national industrial action ballot and the key reasons for the dispute, which can be read here: Strike ballot for Royal Mail workers.

In a stirring speech to some 500 reps and branch officers who had gathered from across the country, Dave said: "There are enormously high stakes and these are vitally important issues - pay, pensions, and the impact of competition and privatisation on terms and conditions."

The key aim of the union is to win a legally binding comprehensive agreement with Royal Mail, which will continue to apply permanently "regardless of ownership," he explained.

And if the company wants to avoid a dispute, then they must "do the right thing and reach agreement with us", Dave added.

Every dispute carries an element of risk, Dave continued, but added: "The risk of doing nothing is greater and these issues are worth fighting for."

Billy highlighted the need for unity across the union at this time, warning the audience to prepare for the inevitable attacks from the CWU's opponents.

"They'll say this is just an ideological issue over ownership of the company - but we must remain focussed on the fact that this is a serious dispute about defending our members in the workplace," he said.


Motions:

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Motion to Labour Party

No privatisation of Royal Mail

"Conference notes the August publication of Royal Mail executives' pay levels, with its chief executive earning £1.47 million.

Conference notes the intention of the coalition government to privatise Royal Mail in the autumn or winter.

Conference states its opposition because it will lead to:

  • Higher prices for small businesses and domestic consumers
  • Pressure to end the six-day delivery and uniform tariff
  • A deterioration of services in rural and 'non-profitable' areas
  • The prioritisation of shareholder dividends over service provision

Conference believes it is vital Labour is seen to defend the public postal service. The most recent YouGov poll registered 67 per cent against the privatisation of Royal Mail.

Conference notes Royal Mail made £403m profit in the most recent financial year. Any necessary investment in Royal Mail can be secured from its own profits, and by allowing it to borrow from commercial markets. Across the EU, government-related entities like Royal Mail are allowed such facilities. Royal Mail could become a successful 'not-for-dividend' company whilst remaining a publicly owned service. In line with practice elsewhere in the EU, such borrowing would not be counted on the PSBR (public sector borrowing requirement).

Conference believes privatisation will jeopardise the contribution Royal Mail makes to the national economy through the universal service obligation. Conference agrees an incoming Labour government should re-nationalise Royal Mail in the event of the coalition government actually selling the company.

Finally, Conference agrees organising against the proposed sale should be an immediate focus for the Labour Party."

Supporting information (not part of the motion)

On Friday 2nd August, details of Royal Mail executives' remuneration were published indicating private-sector excess is already affecting pay levels as the government prepares to try to sell the company off.

There were 12 Royal Mail executives who shared pay and packages totalling £3,753,000 last year.

The company is now paying £1.47m to chief executive Moya Greene for 2012/13 - up more than a third from the previous year, when she took home £1.1m.

Moya Greene and senior executives Mark Higson and Matthew Lester all receive a cash supplement equivalent to 40 per cent of their salary in lieu of pensions.

The government plans to try to sell Royal Mail this year. Labour should oppose it and make clear it will reverse any such move.

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Motion to TUC

Royal Mail Privatisation

Congress notes the intention of the Coalition Government to privatise Royal Mail. Privatisation will lead to higher prices for domestic and small business customers. Private owners will press for the removal of the current universal service and uniform tariff obligations. Inevitably service will decline for rural and remote areas.

Congress rejects the government's suggestion that this is the only method that can secure investment for the service. In the previous year Royal Mai made £411 million profit as a public service, and could become self-financing. Without changing ownership, Royal Mail could borrow money from markets, at a cheaper rate, in line with companies such as Network Rail. Such methods of investment operate throughout the EU for government related entities such as Royal Mail.

Congress applauds the decision of postal workers to reject privatisation in an independent ballot by 96% on a 74% turnout. This was despite government attempts to buy-off the workforce with suggestions of a distribution of shares to staff.

Congress registers that the CWU is in dispute with Royal Mail on future terms and conditions, and supports its campaign to defend these.

Further, Congress supports Post Office staff who have undertaken a number of days strike action for justice on pay, and against the downgrading of the Crown Office network. Congress pledges its support for an equitable settlement.

Congress agrees to support the campaign to Save Our Royal Mail (SORM), and directs the General Council to ensure the TUC's participation in its initiatives.