700 Royal Mail workers in Northern Ireland face the sack
Writing on wall as sale of company to hit staff, firms and consumers
Up to 700 postal workers in Northern Ireland could lose their jobs through the sale of Royal Mail, a trade union has claimed.
Government plans to sell the publicly-owned company through a flotation on the London Stock Exchange have been condemned by trade union and small business representatives.
The Communication Workers Union – which condemned the plans as a "fire sale" – warned of the prospect of imminent industrial action.
But economist John Simpson ruled out the option of maintaining the status quo in the face of a reliance on electronic communication and the growth of private mail firms.
The UK Government has said the sale will free Royal Mail up to access private capital, ensuring long-term growth.
Around 3,500 Royal Mail employees here will receive 10% of shares for free if the Government does float the organisation. The public will also be able to buy shares.
While union representatives concede the writing is on the wall, they have vowed to fight the sale.
Charlie Kelly, CWU representative for Londonderry, claimed the move translates as worse pay and conditions for workers, and that there would be a "stripped-back service" hitting rural areas hardest.
He added: "I think this is the biggest battle that we are going to take on.
"Any private investor coming in will cherry-pick deliveries to big cities, like Belfast and Derry.
"However around 80% of areas here are rural.
"We have already put this out to a vote and 98% voted across the UK for industrial action.
"In terms of job losses, we could be looking at up to 20% here."
Shadow Secretary of State Vernon Coaker (below) said the announcement was not in the interests of Northern Ireland's taxpayers, consumers or small businesses.
John Friel, regional chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, predicted it would result in increased postal costs.
He warned: "Additional rises would only further undermine the ability of the smallest firms and start-ups to compete."
Gary Crawford, Royal Mail delivery director, welcomed the move yesterday.
He said: "By owning 10% of the company, together we will have a meaningful stake in the business.
"I think this will engage everyone and encourage us to continue to work together to build a great future for Royal Mail."
Shares 3,500 Royal Mail staff here will receive
Areas Royal Mail delivers to that are rural
Delivery offices based in Northern Ireland