United Kingdom

Royal Mail Revolution

British privatization


Later this year, the British government is scheduled to privatize its 378-year-old postal service, the Royal Mail. The service is currently profitable, to the tune of about £403 million last year, but the last decade has been a mixed mailbag, including several years of large losses.

Current Royal Mail employees—about 150,000 of them—will be given 10 percent of the shares when the service goes public, a generous allotment. The general population will also be able to buy stakes in the mail company. 

But the Communications Workers Union (CWU), which represents about two-thirds of Royal Mail employees, remains displeased, threatening strikes and service disruptions. "The principle that has secured the universal service is one where the high-density areas, like the big cities, subsidize the rural areas," Dave Ward, the CWU's deputy general secretary, told The Washington Post in July. "The countryside will be completely cut off." 

It comes in the wake of similar privatizations in Austria, Belgium, and Germany, none of which have resulted in a cessation of mail or parcel delivery to less densely inhabited areas.  It would also mark the largest privatization in the U.K. since British Rail was sold off in the early 1990s.