Mail staff 'won't be bought off'
Ministers have been accused of trying to "buy off" angry Royal Mail staff after unveiling privatisation plans that would see them handed thousands of pounds in free shares.
Business Secretary Vince Cable said up to 10% of the new company would be gifted to around 150,000 postmen, postwomen and other employees under the £3 billion sell-off, which will begin by the end of the financial year.
Putting the firm on a more commercial footing was crucial to secure the universal six-days-a-week service it currently provides, he insisted.
But the Communication Workers Union (CWU) said its members were "too long in the tooth" to be swayed by windfalls, and promised to fight the proposals.
Labour also accused the coalition of selling the organisation "on the cheap" in a desperate bid to make up for George Osborne's failing economic strategy.
In his statement to the Commons, Mr Cable said the Government would sell off a majority stake in the business - expected to be 51% initially.
Employees who want to buy more shares on top of their free allocation will get priority, and the remainder will be available to the general public as well as institutional investors under the terms of the stock market flotation.
The company will be listed on the London Stock Exchange by the end of the financial year, he added. Mr Cable justified the issue of free shares as a recognition that many staff "would otherwise find them unaffordable".
However, the CWU - which staged a protest outside Royal Mail's London headquarters - dismissed his arguments.
Deputy general secretary Dave Ward said: "I don't think our members will be bought off by the free share issue. I believe our members are too long in the tooth not to know the dangers of privatisation."