UK's Royal Mail sell-off promotion plan angers postmasters

Sun Aug 11, 2013 7:06pm EDT
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By William James

LONDON (Reuters) - Plans to use Britain's post offices to promote a sell-off of the Royal Mail delivery service drew an angry backlash from branch managers on Monday, creating a new headache for ministers keen to start the privatization.

The state-owned Post Office, a branch network that sells stamps and other services, could ask its thousands of outlets to stock material explaining how the public can buy shares in Royal Mail, the separate postal delivery firm.

But the National Federation of SubPostmasters (NFSP) said it was "surprised and angered" by the proposal, which it believed was asking them to act against their own interests.

Subpostmasters are not employed by the Post Office but run more than 10,000 smaller Post Office branches under contract.

The government department handling the Royal Mail sell-off said it had entered discussions with the Post Office on the plan, but a Post Office spokesperson said no decisions had been made.

The British government wants to sell a majority stake in Royal Mail this financial year but the possibility of a strike by unions representing Royal Mail workers has already threatened to complicate the process.

The Post Office was officially separated from Royal Mail last year, but the two businesses remain closely intertwined. The NFSP said a third of all income earned by its members comes from selling Royal Mail services.

NFSP General Secretary George Thomson said the privatization could jeopardize those ties and was a "potentially devastating blow to our post offices"   Continued...

A postal worker helps run an intelligent sorting machine at Mount Pleasant sorting office in London July 26, 2013. REUTERS/Olivia Harris