UK To Privatize Royal Mail This Fall, Prompting Calls For Strike
Home Office minister Jeremy Browne says many employers praise their eastern European workers. Photograph: Frank Baron for the Guardian Romanian and Bulgarian migrants are no different from British people with second homes in France and Spain, a government minister has admitted. Jeremy Browne, a Liberal Democrat minister at the Home Office, said that new European migrants to Britain are complying with the same rules that apply to Britons with homes in the Dordogne or Marbella. From 1 January 2014, Romanian and Bulgarian migrants will have free access to the UK’s labour market following the lifting of travel restrictions put in place when the countries joined the EU in 2007. He told the New Statesman he was part of an “unfashionable minority” that “embraces the opportunities of globalisation” and does not regret the opening of UK labour markets to workers from Poland and other eastern European countries in 2004. “I don’t think there was a mistake. It was transformational in terms of Britain’s relationship with countries like Poland. It was in our foreign policy interest but, at a much more direct, micro level, there are a lot of employers in my constituency who are full of praise for the contribution that Poles have made to their businesses and the economy more generally,” he said. When asked if he would be equally enthusiastic about the arrival of Romanians and Bulgarians, Browne replied: “They’re only complying with the same rules as British people who live in Spain or have holiday houses in France, or who work in Germany.” Browne also said the home office’s campaign of driving a mobile billboard around areas with large numbers of immigrants with the message “Go home or face arrest” was a mistake. He said he was not consulted by his cabinet colleagues. “The debate about immigration should be conducted in a tone that is civilised and humane, rather than pandering to the least attractive elements in the human spirit,” he said. Sign up for the Guardian Today Our editors’ picks for the day’s top news and commentary delivered to your inbox each morning.
The British government plans to privatize the 500-year-old mail service this fall. (Photo by Carl Court/Bloomberg via Getty Images) Get World Newsletters: Subscribe Follow: Unions , Video , British Gas , Michael Fallon , Postal Service , Royal Mail , Vince Cable , British Telecom , Communications Workers Union , Margaret Thatcher , Uk , Uk Royal Mail , World News LONDON The U.K. coalition government has confirmed plans to privatize the country’s 500-year-old Royal Mail this fall. Business Secretary Vince Cable said Thursday an initial public offering of a majority stake in the postal service was scheduled for the coming weeks. Officials say the expected stock sale will be open to members of the public as well as to larger institutional investors. The minimum investment will be set at 750 pounds ($1,185) with Royal Mail employees getting a slice of the stock offering. Plans call for 10 percent of the stock to be given to U.K.-based Royal Mail employees, with 41 percent to be sold to the public, including institutional investors. Cable said the announcement marks the third and final part of the reforms agreed in Parliament two years ago. “These measures will help ensure the long-term sustainability of the six-days-a-week, one-price-goes anywhere universal postal service,” he said, predicting a “healthy future” for the company. Business minister Michael Fallon said the privatization is the “final step” toward modernizing the business and opening the door toward investment. He said there is “sufficient” interest from potential investors to justify the sale. The government did not provide details about how the stock will be priced at the initial public offering. Even as the announcement of the IPO was made, the Communications Workers Union was planning to ballot workers for possible strike action. The union is opposed to the stock plan because of fears of potential job losses.