Two views on Royal Mail privatisation

Now that the government in power doesn’t have to pretend that it has the interests of workers at heart, it intends to go ahead with the long-term ambition of privatising the final piece of infrastructure, the Royal Mail.

Postie Roy Mayall explains why this is a shit idea at the London Review of Books(!) blog in a piece called Natural Monopoly:

The usual excuse that is reeled out every time anyone brings up the idea of privatisation is the huge £10 billion pension deficit which the company has run up in the last 20 years or so. But no private sector company will take this on. So in order to create an incentive to the private sector, the government will have to agree to fund it. Whether the Royal Mail is in the public sector or the private sector, the pensions deficit will remain a public liability.

Doesn’t anyone ever get the feeling that we are being ever so slightly conned here? The government brings in private sector bosses, such as Allan Leighton and Adam Crozier, to run the Royal Mail. They run it down while alienating staff and ignoring the needs of the public. The state then turns to the private sector for a solution. The government starves an industry of funds while it is in the public sector, but then quietly promises to reinstate a public sector subsidy once it is privatised.

And then there’s a piece by Donnacha deLong at the Guardian. Frame it and put on the wall, it’s one of the twice-a-decade mainstream airings of an anarchist ideas:

How about going a different way – not back to nationalisation or further into privatisation? How about real public ownership and workers’ control?

Imagine if the Royal Mail became the People’s Post, owned by each and every person in the UK, secure beyond the grabbing hands of politicians and their friends in business. Imagine a company controlled by the people most in touch with their customers – the postman or woman, the staff in the post office and sorting depot.

A service managed democratically by the people who know the problems and how to fix them – on behalf of people they work for, the public. A service free to try new things, like the People’s Bank idea – supported by the CWU, the main union in Royal Mail – that would bring in extra revenue. Democratic workers’ control would be easier to establish in Royal Mail than in many other companies. Its highly unionised and geographically spread structure could easily become the basis of a syndicalist structure. This would mean replacing the current hierarchical management structure with a federated direct democratic system.

For all the government’s claims to be “rolling back the size of the state,” this is one “Big Society” plan I predict they won’t be getting behind.