09:10 Wednesday 10th July 2013
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire
ANDIE HARPER: Plans to sell off the Royal Mail will be laid out by the Government later today. One option could be to float the business on the Stock Exchange. Vince Cable will spell out his proposals in the Commons this afternoon. .. Earlier I spoke to Kevin Slocombe from the Communications Workers Union. And I asked him why now? (TAPE)
KEVIN SLOCOMBE: I think the timing’s a little confusing. I don’t think the Government have really got their timescale together yet. But whatever the timing, it’s the wrong thing to do. And we’ll be again saying strongly today that we don’t want the Post Office or Royal Mail sold off, and we want to protect services and keep prices down.
ANDIE HARPER: And what is the main objection from the workers? Because a huge majority of them have voted against the privatisation. Why?
KEVIN SLOCOMBE: Well that’s right. 96% of the workers have voted against privatisation, for two reasons really. One, they actually believe in the service, and they want to maintain the service to customers and keep prices down, and keep the universal service up. Secondly they know it will mean attacks on their own terms and conditions and pay. And we’re obviously fighting against both of those things, and fighting to protect the workers. But we’re also the organisation that is here fighting to protect the service.
ANDIE HARPER: Well the Government is offering to give postal workers 10% of the shares. So some might say well this, on the surface, seems quite a good deal.
KEVIN SLOCOMBE: Well postal workers have known for some time they’re going to be offered 10% of the company. But 96% of them only a few weeks ago voted against the sale. It’s a very overwhelming majority. They can see what’s bad for the company. They can see what’s bad for themselves as well. And we’re asking the Government to step back and consider a new model, a not for dividend, a not for profit model, based on the Network Rail system, where the company can act like a commercial organisation, borrow money on the open market, reinvest it in the service, make the service better not worse, keep prices down for consumers, and make Royal Mail the public service it’s always been.
ANDIE HARPER: There are suggestions that the service hasn’t been as good as it used to be, and therefore something needed to be done. Do you subscribe to that view? Or could the status quo have been maintained?
KEVIN SLOCOMBE: No. The status quo can be maintained. There’s a change in the profile of mail, from letters to mainly parcels and packets, and the company does need investment. But what we’re saying is it can do that in the public sector. It’s a profit making organisation. It can be a not for profit, not for dividend organisation. And it can reinvest its profits in the service. This is a public service. The public want to keep it as a public service. So do we. We want to keep prices down, keep the universal service protected. It’s the finest postal service in the world. It doesn’t need to be sold to modernise it. It is modernising, and it can continue to keep doing so.
ANDIE HARPER: Is it still the finest postal service in the world? Definitely, once upon a time, it was. Is that still the case?
KEVIN SLOCOMBE : I think it is. It’s still the finest postal service there is. It’s still, by measurement of next day delivery, the number of mails delivered next day for one price. That’s the public service that this country’s held there, and we want to protect it. And we’re fighting to keep it as it is.
ANDIE HARPER: Now to be honest, the sell off of public utilities over the years has not been necessarily met with huge acclaim. In fact some people are still looking back with nostalgia to the days when the Government controlled many things that were provided for us. Do you have misgivings about this sale, when you think back to gas, and railways, electricity and water?
KEVIN SLOCOMBE: Oh I do. I think some of those sales were a disaster. Certainly some of them were vary bad for workers. Lots of job losses in lots of those industries. For some of those organisations, looking back at it now, Network Rail was renationalised and now runs in the public sector, but runs as a private organisation. And actually Network Rail is the system we’re proposing for Royal Mail. It doesn’t need to be sold off. No-one would argue the rail service got better. No-one would argue that water, gas, electricity are cheaper. They’re dearer for the consumer, that’s for sure. More expensive for the consumer. And we’re saying that’s the future for Royal Mail, unless the Government steps back and reconsiders our proposal, moves away from privatisation, and looks at how to make this a profitable successful public service.
ANDIE HARPER: I heard comments on another radio station much earlier this morning, people saying this is just public sector workers trying to keep themselves in a job. Get real. You have to be in the same world these days as people who work in the private sector.
KEVIN SLOCOMBE: I don’t think there’s anything wrong actually with workers trying to keep themselves in jobs. And we will fight to keep postal workers’ jobs, and to maintain their terms and conditions. We will fight hard to protect them. But this is also about this trade union being the only organisation, and workers in the postal sector being the only people who are standing up for the service. We’re also standing up, as well as standing up for workers here, we’re standing up for the public, for consumers and for Britain’s army of small businesses, who are the biggest users of the daily postal service.
ANDIE HARPER: Just finally Kevin, how are you going to campaign against this? Is there any point campaigning? Is it a done deal?
KEVIN SLOCOMBE: It’s not a done deal. There’s disquiet in the House of Commons amongst the back benchers in all parties. And even in the Conservative Party there are people standing up, calling for a debate in the House of Commons. And that was agreed yesterday. It’s not a done deal. When the announcement is made today, I think it will be light on detail. I don’t think it will come out with a particular time for the sale. And I think the Government themselves haven’t finished this yet. They know the workers are opposed to it. they know the public don’t want it. We’ve tabled a new proposal today for them to consider keeping the company in the public sector, but reinvesting profits in the service. And we hope that they can still yet turn back and rethink their proposals. (LIVE)
ANDIE HARPER: Kevin Slocombe from the Communication Workers Union who I spoke to earlier this morning.