Ironically, it is one of Labour’s biggest donors, the Communication Workers’ Union, which has called a strike on 25 and 26 November*, in protest at the planned closure of Royal Mail’s final salary pension scheme.
Last year, Royal Mail delivered 130 million parcels (according to The Daily Telegraph), but there may be darker forces at play here. The Labour Party uses a company called Whistl, for its own deliveries. This could look like a calculated stab in the back for Royal Mail. What if Royal Mail were to go out of business, as companies switch their deliveries to Whistl for a guaranteed arrival of presents?
Who is Amazon’s choice of delivery agency? If it is Royal Mail, it would be useful for DWP staff to advise the potential strikers about the risks they are taking with their jobs. Loss of business could overbalance Royal Mail, which has survived privatisation, due to some bold operating decisions. Special Delivery and ‘signed for’ deliveries work very well and are profitable.
Larger companies, registered in the UK, have been closing final salary schemes, since 2000. BHS, our beloved high street store, fell into administration last year, as its pension scheme was hugely underfunded. For some reason, The Pensions Regulator, part of the DWP (Department of Work & Pensions) decided to claim £350 million from Sir Robert Green, Chief Executive and that deal has concluded. However it is not the full amount that was taken from the scheme. Just weeks later, BHS was sold to a serial bankrupt. Are BHS employees being paid their pensions? What about future retirees?
Rifling pension funds was not supposed to happen after the tragedy of Robert Maxwell, who, in 1991, slipped off his yacht after weeks of slander in the media. He took £460 million out of his Mirror Newspaper Group’s pension scheme to repay other debts, especially in his American business. His companies ended up having more debt than assets; a textbook business failure. There were supposed to be laws to stop it ever happening again. However, then came BHS. And now Royal Mail.
Do you want Royal Mail to fail, because it cannot fund its pension scheme adequately to pay future retirements? It has admitted to having to double its contributions from next year and cannot do it. Therefore, it is commonsense to stop the final pension scheme now. I am sure that someone behind the scenes has explained this to the CWU, but have they explained to the workers? They deserve explanation from the best : DWP staff, who are used to giving advice.
* These dates signal the start of ‘Black Friday’, the biggest online sales of the year.