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Opinion

As a former postal worker, the privatised wrecking of Royal Mail breaks my heart

26 Oct 2022 4 minute read
Postal Worker Carolyn

Carolyn Thomas MS

This week, the Senior Public Affairs team at Royal Mail went out of their way to send me a letter defending their attacks on pay and working conditions because I had published tweets in support of striking workers and the Communication and Workers’ Union (CWU).

Much of the letter was dedicated to attacking the CWU and placing the blame for this industrial action at the door of the union for standing up for postal workers across the UK. This couldn’t be further from the truth – in the same week in which I received the letter from Royal Mail, they announced that they would be looking to cut 10,000 jobs – a disgraceful, petty retaliation against those taking action to protect their livelihoods.

Before being elected as a Member of the Senedd for North Wales last year, I worked as a postal worker in the Royal Mail from 2015. I got to see first-hand the negative impact of the privatisation which had taken place under the coalition government in 2013.

From then until now, the fire-sale of this national institution to profiteers has seen a profitable and viable state-holding undergo exercise after exercise in asset stripping.

Profiteers

The signs have been there from the very beginning. The sale itself was a huge gift to profiteers with the government drastically undervaluing the business. An investment bank, Lazard, was paid £1.5m to provide flotation advice to the coalition government – essentially advising on what share price to set when selling the business on the private market.

Lazard themselves then purchased 6 million shares on the day the business was floated, paying their advised price of 330p per share. 48 hours later, they sold those 6 million shares at 470p per share, making a profit of £8.4m.

In total, across the Royal Mail business, this undervaluing cost the British taxpayer a staggering £750m in just one day. A polite reading of this sequence of events would be to view it as obscene levels of incompetence on the behalf of the coalition government. The motives of the investors involved in, and profiting from, the seemingly wilful undervaluation of the company would appear somewhat more sinister.

Fast-forward nine years and the country continues to pay the price – a near decade-long ripping off of the taxpayer which shows no sign of abating. Whilst the price of Royal Mail products has continued to rise, so have shareholder profits and CEO pay. At the same time, the Royal Mail workforce, who valiantly kept us in touch with one another during the pandemic, are having their pay and working conditions attacked and eroded.

Reprehensible

The behaviour of Royal Mail throughout the latest debacle has been reprehensible. They have abandoned mutually-agreed plans for modernisation and instead continued to pursue their asset-stripping agenda which threatens the future of the company. They have attempted to use agency workers to undermine the strike, whilst using their social media accounts to goad and boast about their behaviour.

Their justification for all of this is that the business apparently requires such changes in order to remain viable and profitable. But these clarion calls fall on deaf ears when coming from a business that made £758m in profit last year, gave its shareholders £400m and paid its CEO £753,000. It is pretty clear where the excesses are and those excesses sit at the top of the business, not on the pavements of our streets or in the sorting offices.

Over the last few months, I have stood on picket lines with my former colleagues across North Wales. On those picket lines, the visible displays of support from the public have been, and will continue to be, vital in putting a halt to the continued demolition of the Royal Mail as we know it.

Fundamentally, there are lessons to be learned for politicians about the failures and consequences of privatisation – but whilst those failures and consequences are being painted vividly at the moment with Royal Mail, the wreckage of privatisation is strewn across the fabric of this country, from water and energy companies to our buses and railways.

As a former postal worker, the wrecking of Royal Mail at the hands of this unhinged profit-obsessed mantra is heart-breaking. Moving forward in this dispute, our unity of message must be clear: enough is enough. We will not accept the replacement of workers with self-employed new entrants on reduced pay and the forced adoption of a gig-economy business model. We must save the Royal Mail.

Carolyn Thomas is the MS for North Wales.


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John
1 month ago

Greed is universal,and sad.

Michael
Michael
1 month ago
Reply to  John

Exactly. During lockdowns most offices had total disregard for social distance, PPE kept locked in some manager’s office, people being bullied to share vans when that was not allowed and forced to come back while infected. Now that PPE is no longer recommended, and staff doesn’t collect hundreds of covid tests and delivery Covid tests to infected customers, the company have loads of PPE, unused. Maybe for the next pandemic. Changing PDAs every few months, buying fancy dress reusable masks and supplying them to the staff as if they were safe to use, or even the kid-size armbands to be… Read more »

The original mark
The original mark
1 month ago

Let’s not forget, it was the lib dems’ Vince cable who sold off royal mail, with a majority of lib dem members backing the sale,

Leigh Richards
Leigh Richards
1 month ago

Carolyn Thomas paints a grim picture of the consequence of the privatisation of royal mail for post office workers and customers. But alas her own UK labour party doesnt advocate the solution to this alarming situation – bringing royal mail back under state control. Another solution is that it could be devolved to Wales (as is the case with the isle of man which operates its own publicly managed postal service on the island). Or she could support Welsh independence and then Wales could run its own state owned postal service like Ireland’s An Post.

Last edited 1 month ago by Leigh Richards
Andrew Thomas
Andrew Thomas
1 month ago

Worked as a postman in Llanelli for 37 years and sad to see what’s going on. Watched the management strip the pride out of the organisation. The constant round of cuts and the deliveries getting longer and longer staff constantly being pushed to do more and more resulting in them doing on average over 20,000 steps a day! Unfortunately the current management appointed in the last 25 are just yes people and are afraid to make any decisions unless directed from above. An opportunity was missed to devolve but privatisation is possibly the last nail in the coffin.

Michael
Michael
1 month ago
Reply to  Andrew Thomas

And just today was announced that management got a pay deal of 5.5%, plus a single payment of £1000. Same managers who now have two or three days off per week instead their contractual 1 rolling day off. No wonder so many rounds don’t get delivered when they have way too many managers not working half of their contractual hours and staff is bullied to take extra even at this time of the year. Don’t forget the free collections offered on every tracked item for the past two months and will last until next year. The main beneficiary is Amazon,… Read more »

Mat
Mat
1 month ago

The clearest of descriptions of what’s going on I’ve read so far, nicely written.

Knight G1
Knight G1
26 days ago

In 20 years Royal Mail delivers over 50% fewer letters so obviously they are going to make redundancies. More and more people send parcels with other courier companies because they are cheaper than Royal Mail. It’s no good attacking shareholders when it’s the customers who are turning their backs on Royal Mail. I’d like to know what the Royal Mail staff wages are compared to other companies’ staff wages.

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