The Communication Workers' Union (CWU) has said plans to privatise Royal Mail, confirmed this morning, are a betrayal of the British public and vowed to press ahead with a planned strike ballot on 20 September.
In an announcement today the government said that an initial public offering (IPO) on Royal Mail was "expected in the coming weeks."
CWU general secretary Billy Hayes, said: "This isn’t about what’s best for the Royal Mail, it’s about vested interests of government ministers’ mates in the City. Privatisation is the worst way to access to capital as it’s more expensive than borrowing under public ownership.
"We remain convinced that privatisation is the wrong decision for Royal Mail. It would be bad for customers, bad for staff and bad for the industry."
Hayes said that the union would ask for a commitment from the labour party that a Labour government would renationalise the postal service, if elected.
"Privatisation is an old-fashioned idea and a breach of the public’s trust. It would destroy a centuries-old public service," he added.
On 2 September the CWU announced that it would ballot for a national postal strike of Royal Mail workers on 20th of this month, marking the first national strike ballot since 2009. The ballot excludes Post Office workers.
It followed a consultative ballot in June in which 96% of respondents opposed the privatisation of Royal Mail, 92% were in favour of a boycott of DSA providers’ mail. Other issues in dispute include a 2013 pay claim and changes to pension terms.
This month’s ballot will go out to 125,000 Royal Mail workers and if a yes vote is reached the first strikes could take place from 10 October. The results of the ballot will be announced on 3 October.
Negotiations between the two organisations have been ongoing for months now and while the CWU agreed not to encourage its members to boycott DSA mail, after the Royal Mail sought legal backing, the union told PrintWeek it was consulting lawyers about how a DSA boycott could be included "as part of implementing industrial action".
Dave Broadway, managing director of DSA provider CFH Total Document Mailing, which works closely with Royal Mail, said a strike would impact heavily on its customers.
"We will try to offset that impact as much as possible, and of course, deliveries in Bristol, Bath and Coventry, where we use our own delivery service, will be unaffected," he added.
Broadway said he had little sympathy for the CWU.
"They realise that a move into a competitive market means that it will be harder for them to demand salaries, pensions and terms that are far better than any in the private sector, and that date back to the union heydays of the 60's and 70's. However, if the union wants their members to have jobs for the longer term, then this is a move that Royal Mail needs to make.
"A strike by the CWU at this point will be completely self-serving and short sighted. It will not help their members, will drive more mail online, and ultimately lead to more of their members losing their jobs."
Meanwhile Broadway welcomed confirmation of Royal Mail privatisation plans.
He said: "A sale to a venture capital company would have been bad news as they would only have extracted cash, and not invested in the business. A sale to the public gives Royal Mail the best chance to move into the modern world, which they have failed to do under public ownership."