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Labour MPs plan revolt over bid to sell off the Royal Mail

PUBLISHED: 12:01 02 March 2009 | UPDATED: 11:25 12 August 2010

THE government is bribing postal workers with their pensions according to angry protesters. Some 125 Labour MPs look set to rebel against the plans

THE government is "bribing postal workers with their pensions" according to angry protesters.

Some 125 Labour MPs look set to rebel against the plans by Lord Peter Mandelson to sell off 33 per cent of Royal Mail last Thursday (February 26).

Thousands of postal workers protested outside parliament last Tuesday (February 24) while representatives from the Communication and Workers Union (CMU) were inside the House of Commons lobbying MPs.

The government claims the sell-off needs to go ahead to fill the pension deficit which they only promise to take over if a sale goes ahead.

Postman and South East Secretary for the CWU Terry Jackson, 55, representing Bromley and Bexley, said: "The pension deficit is an historical one which we have had for years.

"The government are bribing people with their pensions by saying they will only protect your pensions if we can sell some off some of Royal Mail and we can't protect them if we can't."

Erith and Thamesmead MP John Austin said like many in the Labour party he opposed to the privatisation plan.

He said: "I think once it is privatised it will affect services. The private sector is not going to pick the non-profitable services up.

"I can send a letter for the same price to the Kentish Times as I can to my uncle on a mountain in North Wales and no private sector is going to do that. They only compete on the profitable services the Royal Mail provide, which is a very small part.

"The pension liability has to be met.

"There are quite a lot of us that don't agree with it and there is feeling that the management of Royal Mail is inept.

"I think the public trusts the Post Office in a way they don't trust banks."

But MP for Old Bexley and Sidcup Derek Conway said he backs privatisation as long as there was a clause to safeguard jobs and the government subsidised services in rural services.

He said: "I get letters from people in my constituency who work for Royal Mail who ask me to sign the Early Day Motion (signed by 125 Labour MPs) against the privatisation plans but I call them back and tell them that I won't as I don't agree with them.

"Privatisation is going to happen and it is only a matter of when.

"The government should safeguard pensions for existing workers."

Conservative MP for Beckenham Jacqui Lait said she agrees with the principle of bringing in the private sector if the company is struggling.

She said: "I think they need to address the problems that the system is finding it exceedingly difficult to maintain the services on its current income."

A Royal Mail spokesperson said: "Royal Mail is increasingly hampered by a huge and unsustainable legacy pension deficit which is costing the company around £280m in cash every year for 17 years and which is this Spring more than likely to double from the previous level of £3.4bn.

"This is clearly unaffordable, as acknowledged in the package of solutions recommended by the Hooper report and endorsed by the Government."

marina.soteriou@archant.co.uk

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