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Starmer faces clash with unions over Royal Mail takeover

Keir Starmer
Keir Starmer's Labour Party is understood to oppose the nationalisation of Royal Mail - Stefan Rousseau/PA

Sir Keir Starmer is braced for a clash with unions as a Czech billionaire’s proposed takeover of Royal Mail reignites calls for nationalisation.

The Communication Workers Union (CWU), which represents postal workers, is due to speak to Labour Party officials on Friday to discuss a £3.1bn takeover bid for the 500-year-old postal service by Daniel Kretinsky.

The swoop has highlighted tensions between union bosses and the Labour Party over the renationalisation of privately-owned assets.

In an emergency motion tabled at its conference on Thursday, the CWU said its policy was to bring Royal Mail back into public ownership.

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However, it admitted that “the current political climate makes delivering this very difficult”.

The Labour Party is understood to oppose nationalisation. A Labour source said bringing the postal service under public ownership was “not an option”, adding that the party was instead interested in ways of boosting investment in its creaking network.

Shadow business secretary Jonathan Reynolds met Mr Kretinsky, dubbed the Czech sphinx, in Davos earlier this year and the party is said to have developed a working relationship with the tycoon.

Daniel Kretinsky
Daniel Kretinsky signalled he will continue his pursuit for full control of Royal Mail's parent company IDS - Joel Saget/AFP

Labour’s apparent openness to the takeover comes despite concerns about a critical British asset falling into the hands of a foreign investor.

While his initial offer was rebuffed, the Czech tycoon is expected to return with a fresh offer ahead of a deadline of May 15 under City takeover rules.

Sir Vince Cable, who oversaw Royal Mail’s privatisation in 2013, called for Mr Kretinsky to face a fit and proper person test and said any deal should be reviewed on national security grounds.

In its motion this week, the CWU called for a “new ownership and governance model” for Royal Mail and vowed to campaign for change.

Should the takeover go ahead, the union also said it would oppose any efforts to break up the company, introduce franchising or outsourcing, or cut down Royal Mail’s obligations to deliver letters six days a week.

Dave Ward, general secretary of the CWU, said: “Handing over the ownership of Royal Mail to a foreign private equity investor cannot be right.

“Royal Mail’s vulnerability to this type of bid can’t demonstrate more clearly how privatisation has failed one of Britain’s most important institutions.

“Royal Mail needs a new ownership and governance model with its focus on delivering a postal service for workers and customers, not one simply about shareholder payouts and running down conditions.”

The row over nationalisation comes even as Labour pledged to renationalise the UK’s rail network within five years of coming to power.

The party had previously included Royal Mail in its policy of nationalising key industries alongside energy suppliers and water companies, but pulled back from the pledge last year.

The Labour Party has been contacted for comment.