Trade union anger as Tories sell off final public stake in Royal Mail

© Luke MacGregor
The Conservative government’s sale of its final 13 percent public stake in Royal Mail for just over £591 million is a “disgrace,” the Communication Workers Union has said.

Royal Mail shares were sold at 455p per share on Monday night, finalizing the controversial 2-year privatization scheme. The remaining 1 percent stake was awarded to eligible Royal Mail employees, bringing workers’ total stake in the company to 12 percent.

Tory leaders celebrated the move, with Business Secretary Sajid Javid calling the sale “the right step for the Royal Mail, its customers and the taxpayer.”

“This is a truly historic day for Royal Mail with the workers gaining a share of this history,” he said on Tuesday morning.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne promised that the proceeds from the sale, 3.3 billion, would go towards paying off the national debt.

“By fully leaving state ownership we have a win all round, for customers, the workforce and the taxpayer. And every penny will be used to pay down our national debt as we continue to bring our public finances under control,” Osborne said.

Unions however see the sale as an assault on already dwindling workers’ rights, with Communication Workers Union (CWU) General Secretary Dave Ward, saying on Tuesday: “This fire sale nails the lie that the Tories stand up for the interests of ordinary people. By their actions today they have made it abundantly clear that they are only interested in privatization dogma and making the rich richer – even when their actions place public services at risk.

“The remaining government share in this profitable company should have been used to safeguard the public’s voice in Royal Mail and ensure the continuation of daily deliveries to every address in the country.”

The sale went ahead a week after Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn told thousands at a protest rally in Manchester that the Royal Mail should remain in public hands.

A report last year revealed the government had heavily undervalued the organization after the first round of privatization. The findings suggested the government made £180 million less from the sale than its true worth.