Monday, December 15, 2008

Taxpayers Bill For Royal Mail Sell-Off

Taxpayers look set to be saddled with Royal Mail's £7 billion pension burden for years to come with some crafty accounting, as the government plans a back door sell-off, putting thousands of jobs at risk. 

The struggling £22 billion pension fund is the stumbling block to the government's obsession with the privatisation of Royal Mail. 

That comes to a head this week with the publication of the year long Hooper report, now with business secretary Lord Mandleson, widely leaked to prepare the ground and  soften up the public. 

The report, claiming 'inefficiencies' with a remedy of 'radical surgery', will give the government and Mandelson just the excuse they need for a partial sell-off, once the stumbling block of the massive pension debt is removed with a neat accounting trick. 

With that £7 billion pension black-hole dumped on the taxpayer, the government can press ahead with a sell-off dressed up as a 'partnership' with private operators and neatly side step any manifesto commitment that this vital public service will not be privatised, making a mockery of a 'universal public service'.

Outraged postal workers are already threatening strike action in the run up to Christmas over depot closures and changed working practices, inflamed by recent reports of posties made to walk faster on their rounds while callous bosses enjoy obscene salaries and bonuses. 

Time and again the myth of privatisation as a cure all for economic ills carried out with so much glee by the so-called 'Labour' government has been exposed as a miserable failure. 

The Hooper report will be published with the usual fanfare of government spin but no matter how it is dressed up, this will lead to switching the huge pension asset and liability to taxpayers who will get nothing in return, as a vital and strategic public service is prepared to be sold off. 

What is needed is investment not a half-baked sell-off. If pushed through, the casualties will be the hard working and dedicated postal workers, a raft of large-scale job losses and the loss of a 'Royal' service we have come to rely on over the years. 

But with a general election coming up and trade union cash vital, Mandelson may be forced to rethink his private plans. 

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