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Royal Mail shares sale condemned
Communication Workers Union members prior to a meeting to discuss the sell-off and plans for a strike ballot
The Government has confirmed it is pressing ahead with controversial plans to privatise the Royal Mail by selling shares, sparking claims it is "selling off the family silver".
Ministers said it was a "very exciting" day as details of a share sale were announced, but they were attacked by unions and opposition politicians. Members of the public will be able to apply for shares - at a minimum of £750 - as well as institutional investors. Analysts expect the sell off will make up to £3 billion.
The announcement came ahead of a meeting of Communication Workers Union officials to discuss the sell off and their plans for a strike ballot.
General secretary Billy Hayes said: "This isn't about what's best for the Royal Mail, it's about vested interests of Government ministers' mates in the City. Privatisation is the worst way to access capital as it's more expensive than borrowing under public ownership."
Chuka Umunna, shadow business secretary said: "Ministers are pushing ahead with this politically-motivated fire sale of Royal Mail to fill the hole left by George Osborne's failed plan. This is taking place despite opposition from a huge coalition including the Conservative Bow Group, the Countryside Alliance, the National Federation of SubPostmasters, the cross party BIS Select Committee as well as Royal Mail employees themselves."
Business minister Michael Fallon said the Government was aiming for a majority sale so that Royal Mail could access capital markets like any other British business. Asked about the prospect of a strike by postal workers, he said: "Strike action will not derail the sale. There is no need for strike action - a pay rise of 8.6% over three years has been offered. Teachers and nurses are only getting 1%."
The Government confirmed that 10% of shares will be given to 150,000 Royal Mail workers.
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said the Government was selling off the family silver, adding: "This move is being driven by blinkered right-wing dogma that has ridden roughshod over public opinion which is strongly opposed to the sell-off of this national institution."
Royal Mail chief executive Moya Greene said later: "The Government has initiated the process for Royal Mail's privatisation and has dispelled any doubt over the future ownership of the business. It is now time for Royal Mail and the CWU to come to a new agreement for our people going forward. Talk of a ballot for industrial action makes no sense."
Prime Minister David Cameron told BBC London 94.9 radio: "Royal Mail operates in a competitive market, and right now being owned by the Government is a massive disadvantage. You can't get out there, borrow money, access expertise and capital from the private sector. Effectively we are setting this business free to be able to do that, to respond to the competition."