THE privatisation of the Royal Mail was confirmed by the UK Government earlier this year. Earlier this month Westminster sources said the sale was due “in the coming weeks”.
There are more than 50 Post Office outlets in Flintshire and Wrexham, all overseen by the Royal Mail.
Deeside hosts a major distribution hub, while, at peak times of year, the Chester sorting office can deal with up to 140,000 letters and parcels during one eight hours shift.
At the start of the month, the Leader shared the fears of staff at the Deeside Sorting Office over the future of their jobs, with one postal worker commenting: “Until it all goes through, I don’t really know what will happen to us.”
Today members of the Communications Workers Union will ballot members with a view to taking part in a national strike which, if it goes through, could affect deliveries in the run up to Christmas.
Royal Mail chief executive officer Moya Greene said talk of industrial action “made no sense” when negotiations were ongoing.
Dave Ward, CWU deputy general secretary, said: “The government’s privatisation agenda has destabilised everything. Postal workers are rightly concerned about their future so we want a legally-binding agreement on protections for jobs, terms and conditions – regardless of who owns the company.
“We don’t want a race to the bottom in the postal industry where companies compete on poverty pay, few employment rights and poor services simply to maximise payouts to wealthy shareholders. Without an agreement strikes are inevitable.”
The sale of the service, scheduled to begin over the next few weeks, is expected to raise £3 billion and will allow members of the public to buy shares in the newly privatised business.
Does this mean the de-nationalisation of the Royal Mail is the right way to go?
Not if Flintshire and Wrexham residents are anything to go by.
Ian Walton, owner of Plas Power, near Wrexham, said: “If Thatcher wouldn’t do it that tells you something.
“I used to work for the Royal Mail and I think privatisation would be absolutely detrimental. Despite people’s complaints, it’s still the best service of its kind in the world.”
Nathan Sheady, 29, of Rossett, said: “Replacing a public body with a mandate or charter to deliver a good standard of service to the public with a business whose goal is to make profit while potentially compromising service is madness.
“Do we, the people who own the Royal Mail, actually have a say in it’s fate? It’s like your neighbour selling your Jag and replacing it with a bright yellow Nova whilst pocketing the cash.”
Steve Jones, 31, of Chester, also suspected the sell-off was to the benefit of private companies and individuals rather than the public.
He said: “The sales of British Gas and British Telecom in the 80s only made things worse, as they are now being controlled by people who are only interested in profits, and not the service.
“Personally, I beleive there should be a law which prevents public services, that are ‘publically owned’ being sold off to companies that are only interested in profit.”
Lorraine Arthur, of Wrexham, posted on the Leader Facebook page that privatisation was the start: “Just another slippery slope...” while Dawn Daniels, who grew up in Wrexham but emmigrated to New Zealand, wrote that it was a “shame”.
But Paula Hamstead, of Wrexham, wrote: “With the latest huge rise in letters and parcels post, people are using couriers as it’s cheaper. Something really needs to be done about this before the Royal Mail loses all its customers.”
Franca Di Sessa, from Montreal but now living in Wrexham, had an international perspective.
She wrote: “Coming from a foreign country, the Royal Mail is excellent service. My parents received a letter by regular mail the next day, I didn’t even get the chance to tell them to expect this letter. But I have seen the small packages to medium have risen in prices.
“They need to do better to stay in the competition, but they haven’t and that’s what’s put them in the position that they are in. Best of luck to them.”
Colin Roberts, 42, of Wrexham, predicted that the cost of stamps would go up, while Pete Bartley, 41, of Flint, guessed that postage collections would drop, and we would see hopelessly over-full letter boxes in future.
Stephen Parry, 39, of Connah’s Quay, said: “Great, I’m really looking forward to paying £10 for a first class stamp!”
Melissa Roberts, 44, of Flint, who has a small business making gifts, was worried the change would hit workers like her.
She said: “If the BT prices, directory enquiries and British Gas prices are anything to go by, this is trouble.
“It will affect small business owners and the general public trying to sell on the likes of eBay I suspect more than big businesses. I also wonder what it will mean for the staff.”
Chris Walters, 42, of Rhos, said: “Everyone keeps harping on about the good old days when everything was state owned. It was a disaster.
“Market forces can only improve what we’ve got. Everything changes. Perhaps under private ownership mail won’t vanish as often. Perhaps the private sector will do more to improve the service to ensure more people use it.
“Royal Mail posties are mainly temps where I live anyway.”
But Mike Harrison, 22, of Wrexham, a Unite The Union Community activist, disagreed.
He said: “Privatisation would be a disaster in the making. Prices will shoot up (just look at rail), it will be more expensive for business to send things. People in rural areas won’t get mail or will have to wait a long time to get it. At a time when the Royal Mail was making big profits they decide to sell it off.”