Britain to privatise Royal Mail amid union protests | Business| Economy and finance news from a German perspective | DW | 12.09.2013
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Britain to privatise Royal Mail amid union protests

The British government has announced a plan to privatize its revered Royal Mail postal service. The stock sale is intended to modernize the business. But postal workers’ unions fears job losses and pay cuts.

Under long-delayed plans to privatize Royal Mail, 41 percent of the shares in Britain's state-owned postal service would be sold to the public, while 10 percent were reserved for Royal Mail employees, the British government announced Thursday.

The biggest privatization since conservative Prime Minister John Major sold off the national railways in the 1990s, was to be launched in the coming weeks, Business Minister Michael Fallon said.

Fallon also said the move was the final step toward modernizing the business and that there was sufficient interest from potential investors to justify the sale.

According to estimates, the stock floatation could be worth up to 3 billion pounds (3.5 billion euros, $4.7 billion) with the minimum investment for the public set at 750 pounds per share.

The government said the privatization would ensure the sustainability of the six-days-a-week, one-price-goes-anywhere universal postal service for Britain.

Labor unions defiant

The privatization plan is the fourth attempt by a British government to sell Royal Mail. Three previous attempts failed due to lawmakers fears of an electoral backlash from tampering with the revered institution.

On Thursday, Britain's Communication Workers Union (CWU) said it would send out strike ballot papers next week if an agreement cannot be reached with Royal Mail over post-privatization pay and working conditions.

“We remain convinced that privatization is the wrong decision for Royal mail, and we want a commitment that a Labour government will renationalize Royal Mail," said CWU General Secretary Billy Hayes, referring to Britain's main opposition party.

CWU, which represents 150,000 postal workers, fears the privatization will lead to massive job losses and poorer services.

uhe/dr (Reuters, dpa, AP)