After Royal Mail, what will be privatised next, the Royal family?

The armed forces?

Already banned from unionising, should be easy to squeeze profits out of service-personnel. No doubt money could be made in sale-and-rent-back deals…

Perhaps the police forces could get “private investment”?

God knows, with ACPO a private company already, there could be plenty of money in driving down the pay and conditions of police officers. 999 could be changed to a premium-rate number…

Paul Feldman notes:

The extra £500 billion in liabilities taxpayers are said to be facing to prop up RBS and Lloyds will take the state’s commitment to the insolvent banking system to a staggering £1.3 trillion (£1,300,000 million if it makes the total any easier to understand). That’s equivalent to the value of the British economy’s output for a whole year.

Meanwhile, on the back of a paltry – by comparison – £5,900 million deficit in the Royal Mail’s pension fund, New Labour is planning to sell off part of the company to a transnational corporation. New investment will be undertaken at the price of “modernisation” of this nominally public service, resulting in large-scale job losses and price increases. The break-up of post office services is an indication of what is to come.

That, at least, is the plan and it is entirely consistent with New Labour’s role in life. This is to use the capitalist state to create opportunities for global companies operating in Britain to extract maximum profits from working people. With the capitalist economy in freefall, new opportunities for profit-taking are most welcome by business and part-privatisation does just that.

Well, who honestly believes that the private investor will be willing to bail out the pension fund as the government was trying to claim?

The investor will not be acting as a charity – it’ll be after the loot. And that will come from cuts in services, job losses, and increased costs to consumers. Whatever happens, the pension fund will be rescued by taxpayers.

Neil Clark, writing in the Morning Star, has been looking into the details of the possible sale:

The three leading contenders for a 49.9 per cent stake in the Royal Mail are Dutch postal operator TNT, Deutsche Post subsidiary DHL and private equity firm CVC Capital Partners. The Sunday Express informs us that “TNT and CVC are serious in their intentions.”

In fact, CVC is very serious in its intentions – it has been lobbying the government to sell off a stake in Royal Mail since 2005.

Founded in 1981, CVC describes itself as a “global private equity and investment advisory firm headquartered in Luxembourg with a network of 19 offices across Europe, Asia and the USA.”

To see how a CVC-owned Royal Mail might operate, we need only look at the way the company ran another British institution it acquired, along with another private equity firm Permira – the Automobile Association.

Since its transformation from a mutual organisation to one owned by private equity sharks, the whole ethos of this once much-loved British institution has changed.
Over 3,000 staff have been laid off. The organisation consequently slumped from first to third place for response times.

In 2006, the AA chief executive conceded on an audio tape leaked to a national newspaper that the slimmed-down workforce was struggling to get to stranded motorists.

The prospective sell-off of the Royal Mail is already providing lucrative business for some.

TNT is being advised by the international law firm Allen & Overy, while CVC is working with Clifford Chance, the largest legal firm in the world. TNT has reportedly been sounding out investment bankers to advise it, including new Labour’s favourite money men at Goldman Sachs.

And what do the British public think of the planned sell-off? Not a lot. According to a new poll, around 75 per cent of Britons who had heard of the possibility of Royal Mail being sold opposed the idea.

Felix Jakens reports on the Westminster rally of the campaign to Keep the Post Public:

The rally was opened by CWU General Secretary Billy Hayes, who evoked the clear battle lines that this issue represents: between people’s democracy and the political elite. He went on to point out the glaring hypocrisy of the Labour government which, in its 2005 manifesto, pledged to keep the post office fully in public hands. Hayes called upon the members of the CWU to come together to make sure that the politicians behind the scheme know exactly how much power the unions hold and that they will not be ignored.

To the joy of the massed crowd, Hayes handed over the floor to Tony Benn, who was declared an honorary member of the CWU. Benn, the former Postmaster General and long time champion of postal workers rights, was on typically spirited form. He eloquently argued the position that, as a public service, the Royal Mail must be for the benefit of the people who use it, not for the benefit of shareholders. He also pored scorn on the government’s assertion that the planned partial sell-off is not about privatisation at all but about modernisation. “The markets are failing” he stated. “Why would we ever place our most treasured public service in their destructive hands?”

This sentiment was largely echoed by the subsequent speakers. Other union General Secretaries on hand to offer full support and solidarity included Tony Woodley of UNITE, Mick Shaw of the FBU, Brendan Barber from the TUC, Bob Crow of RMT, Paul Kenny of the GMB, Dave Prentis of UNISON, Mark Serwotka of PSCU and Dereck Simpson from UNITE. Every one of these individuals pledged the full and unswerving support of their unions and vowed not to bow to governmental pressure in the fight against reckless privatisation.

Other notable contributions were made from Geraldine Smith MP, who tabled EDM 428 in the first place, and who drew attention to the shockingly underhand tactics that government has reverted to, in ‘leaking’ a document stating that only through privatisation will postal workers’ pensions be protected. She argued that these bullying, blackmailing methods reveal the true face of Peter Mandelson and New Labour in their most shameful reality. There were also good turns from Frank Dobson M.P, Lord Tony Clarke and Dot Gibson of the National Pensioners Convention, each of whom re-iterated the importance and historical poignancy of this issue, as well as the scandalous truth that the plan is being issued by a Labour government.

Neal Lawson, chair of Compass, was also a speaker. Neal started by making it clear that he believes a key factor in the government’s plans is the desire to crush the industrial and political strength of the CWU, but he also called for the need to work together to present a realistic alternative to privatisation. To draw together expertise to present a future for the Royal Mail that is viable and sustainable. He further used his time at the podium to draw reference to the wider significance of this issue. The need to seize the moment and engage with the shift in national thinking and ideology, away from marketisation, towards a fairer freer society. To avert the ever steady march of privatisation in favour of public services and create the type of society we want to see, a fairer more equal society, where the benefits are for the many and not the few.

There was an overwhelmingly optimistic, spirit amongst everyone present that the CWU, in concert with public and union support could halt and reverse the government’s plans to strip this country of one of its finest assets. The message was clear; the privatisation of our other national industries and services has failed. Failed to improve customers’ service and failed, to improve workers pay or conditions. In this time of economic crisis and uncertainty, the concept of selling off one of this country’s most prized assets, for the benefit of no one but a few select shareholders, is insane. Keep the post in our hands. Keep the post public.