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Return Royal Mail to public ownership, ministers urged

MINISTERS faced a chorus of calls in the Commons yesterday to end Britain’s rip-off postal privatisation.

On National Postal Workers’ Day, Labour MP and former Parcel Force worker Hugh Gaffney squared up to Business Minister Margot James, asking: “Will the minister renationalise Royal Mail?”

She said a return to public ownership was “not the answer.”

Meanwhile, shareholders were laughing all the way to the bank. Royal Mail’s stock price rose yesterday and finance giant JP Morgan said the company offered “the most robust upside potential.”

Back in the Commons, shadow post minister Gill Furniss pointed out: “In a privatised Royal Mail service, we’ve seen 12,000 job losses and proposals to slash pensions by 45 per cent.

“Such is the classic case of one rule for the rich and another for the rest. Royal Mail has paid out £70 million in dividends to private shareholders and that’s only in the last six months.”

Asked by Ms Furniss if she stood by the privatisation, Ms James replied: “I stand by it 100 per cent. Royal Mail would have had no future had it not been privatised.”

The company is back in negotiations with the Communication Workers Union (CWU) after a court quashed an overwhelming mandate for strike action in a dispute over pensions and employment terms.

But the company now faces another industrial relations headache.

Four Parcel Force couriers are taking a test case to an employment tribunal in a bid to win workers’ rights. They will argue in February that the Royal Mail subsidiary has failed to pay the national minimum wage and holiday pay.

Mark Smith, one of the drivers bringing legal action, said: “I have worked for Royal Mail for over 25 years, both as an employed driver originally, and, since 2003, under what they say is a self-employed contract.  

“Yet, I do the same job I have always done; the only difference now is that I get paid less for doing more hours’ work per week than drivers who are categorised as employees.”

A Parcelforce spokesman said: “We are aware that a case has been filed. We do not comment on ongoing legal cases.”

* The CWU joined forces with Labour left organisation Momentum yesterday to launch a video making the case for renationalisation.

The video shows an elderly man toiling hard to construct a cuckoo clock in time for the Christmas post – only to find his local Post Office has been shut down.

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