Royal Mail to be sold off within weeks

Royal Mail is to be privatised within weeks, the government has announced, as postal workers prepare for widespread strike action.

The sell-off comes despite overwhelming opposition amongst postal workers and the public.

A poll earlier this summer found that two-thirds of the public are opposed to the privatisation of Royal Mail with 36% strongly opposing any sale.

The Communication and Workers Union (CWU) said the plans would put "a wrecking ball" through the service.

They will now ballot for strike action to begin as early as next month.

Under the plans, employees will be handed ten per cent of shares in the company

CWU general secretary Billy Hayes said postal workers would not "sell their soul" for shares.

"Postal workers know that privatisation would mean the break-up of the company, more job losses, worse terms and conditions, and attacks on their pensions," he said.

The earliest a strike could take place under union rules is October 10th. The government is keen to rush through a sale before any strike can take place.

Ministers insist the sale will not jeopardise rural post offices, which are part of a separate company.

They insisted today that post offices would be "protected" under the plan.

"This is an important day for the Royal Mail, its employees and its customer," business secretary Vince Cable said.

"These measures will help ensure the long term sustainability of the six days a week, one-price-goes-anywhere universal postal service."

Labour said they had "huge concerns" over the sale.

"Ministers are pushing ahead with this politically-motivated fire sale of Royal Mail to fill the hole left by George Osborne’s failed plan," shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna said.

"The government has not addressed the huge concerns which remain on the impact the Royal Mail sale will have on consumers, businesses and communities, but ministers are ploughing on regardless."

The last Labour government tried to privatise a third of Royal Mail in 2009, but were forced to retreat following a rebellion by backbenchers.

Margaret Thatcher was also shy of selling off Royal Mail, famously saying she was "not prepared to have the Queen's head privatised".