The front-page story from today’s Morning Star:
Posties sunk by EU market madness
(Tuesday 06 May 2008)
THE “liberalisation” of the British postal market had delivered no benefits to the public while jeopardising Royal Mail’s future, an official report warned on Tuesday.
Postal campaigners demanded an end to the creeping privatisation of the post office after the report said that opening up the market to competition had only benefited big business.
The government-commissioned review warned that the “substantial threat” to Royal Mail’s financial security endangered universal postal service to all British addresses.
The independent panel, which will produce its full report in the summer, concluded that the continuing “status quo is not tenable.”
The Royal Mail’s 350-year monopoly ended at the start of 2006, when private operators were allowed to collect and deliver mail.
The report found that large firms had seen “clear benefits from liberalisation” but there had been no significant benefits for consumers and smaller businesses, who “have no choice in provider and are paying higher stamp prices.”
Abolishing Sunday collections and the move to a single daily delivery were also more visible to consumers and small firms and were seen as a reduction in services.
Labour Representation Committee chairman John McDonnell MP said that the report had confirmed what the left had warned all along.
“We warned that liberalisation would only benefit big business and do nothing for the public or the dedicated workers of Royal Mail,” he said.
“In fact, by undermining Royal Mail’s revenue, liberalisation has meant cuts in services, post office closures and attacks on postal workers’ pay and pensions.
“In the local elections, the programme of post office closures around the country was a major issue,” said Mr McDonnell, challenging the government to “decide whose side it’s on – the public and the workforce or big business?”
Communication Workers Union (CWU) deputy general secretary Dave Ward agreed that the report identified problems long flagged by his union.
He argued: “Currently, the policy and funding of Royal Mail makes its future untenable and damages the service to customers, the terms and conditions of workers in the industry and the future of the universal service.”
“Royal Mail is preoccupied with managing decline rather than meeting customers’ requirements.”
Mr Ward revealed that the CWU had submitted a report to the review team, insisting: “The public wants an innovative, publicly owned postal service that provides customers with the service that they want.”
The CWU has been leading a Europe-wide campaign against postal privatisation in light of EU laws forcing member states to open their markets by 2011.
Trade Unions Against the EU Constitution spokesman Brian Denny condemned the “undemocratic” EU postal directives as a step closer to privatising all public services in Europe.
“EU directives are drawn up in secret by corporate lobbyists like the EU Roundtable of Industrialists which have enormous power in Brussels,” he said.
“These anti-democratic diktats allow big capital to sweat the assets and gives them access to huge subsidies paid for by the taxpayer.”
But ultra-Blairite Business Secretary John Hutton appeared to draw the opposite conclusion from the report, declaring that “I am now clear that, to be successful, the Royal Mail must undergo radical change.”