Royal Mail union not won over by Czech bidder’s commitments

The commitments offered by the Czech tycoon seeking to buy Royal Mail’s parent firm do not go far enough, according to the union leader representing its 112,000 UK frontline workers.

Communication Workers Union (CWU) general secretary Dave Ward made his remarks following talks with representatives of Daniel Kretinsky’s EP Group.

International Distribution Services (IDS) revealed last week it had formally accepted a revised £3.6bn offer for the business, which includes the international parcels arm GLS.

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Under the full terms, the total value to shareholders represents a premium of more than 70% to the IDS share price before the first takeover proposals came to light.

IDS said that if the deal, which is subject to shareholder approval and official scrutiny, was to complete the new owner would maintain its UK tax residency, headquarters, branding and existing employment rights.

EP Group’s ownership would also include a commitment to the current Royal Mail universal service obligation of one-price-goes-anywhere first-class post six days a week, the company said.

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It added the new owner had “no intention to make any material changes to overall headcount or reductions in the number of frontline workers” beyond existing plans.

The union’s argument

Tuesday’s talks were held against a backdrop of relative peace between the union and IDS following several bitter disputes.

The last, which lasted more than a year, resulted in a series of strikes ahead of Christmas 2022.

It was only ended when workers accepted a new pay settlement in return for reforms including regular Sunday working.

Relations have remained frosty since on several grounds including the treatment of staff.

The CWU had also opposed plans for Royal Mail to water down its universal service obligation on cost grounds.

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Mr Ward called for debate on Royal Mail’s ownership to be a central issue in the 4 July general election following Tuesday’s talks.

“The meeting was useful and constructive and further meetings will take place including the direct involvement of Daniel Kretinsky”, he said.

“We made it very clear that the current commitments from EP Group are neither strong or long enough.

“Daniel Kretinsky has openly stated he wants to own Royal Mail for the rest of his life – we need commitments for the workforce that match that level of ambition.

“The CWU put forward our wide-ranging concerns and our view that we need to see a completely new ownership and business model for Royal Mail – one that gives all employees a real stake in the future of the business. Both parties have agreed to explore this further.

“Royal Mail have led a prolonged and deliberate attack on its own workforce which continues to this day in many workplaces. Representatives of EP Group understood the reality that unless the workforce are on board, the company will never succeed.

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“Alongside this meeting we are increasing our plans to engage the government and Labour Party on the takeover bid. This bid needs to be heavily scrutinised and debated, particularly in the run-up to a general election.

“The CWU position is clear. We do not support a foreign equity company taking over Royal Mail. At the same time, we have absolutely no confidence in the current Board of the company.

“Royal Mail should be renationalised but the political climate makes that very difficult at the moment.

“Our job now is to make sure our members are heard at every opportunity as this takeover bid unfolds,” he concluded.

For his part Mr Kretinsky, who is already a 27% shareholder in IDS, has promised the company would be safe in his hands.

He said last week EP has “decades of experience in owning critical national infrastructure” and IDS could “become one of the largest postal logistics groups in Europe”.

“The EP Group has the utmost respect for Royal Mail’s history and tradition, and I know that owning this business will come with enormous responsibility – not just to the employees but to the citizens who rely on its services every day,” he added.

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