Royal Mail Guide – 0843 487 1853
Publicly owned for most of its history, the Royal Mail was the subject of much controversy in the UK in 2013 when – for the first time ever – it was floated on the London Stock Exchange by the British conservative government.
Royal Mail Privatisation
The Royal Mail was set up by King Henry VIII in 1516 for his own personal use – only becoming available to the public in 1635 over 100 years later. Now owned by the Royal Mail Group Limited, the service has remained the most popular postal choice in the UK for customer because of fixed rates that privatised companies have not been able to match. The Government does still own 30% of the shares since the privatisation of 2013, but the move has drawn criticism from the public – with many worried about what it would mean for courier rates that have hitherto been set at a fixed rate under the nationalised system.
It should be noted that the privatisation of The Royal Mail Group does not affect the Postal Service, which is still 100% owned by the government through their Postal Services Holding Company Limited – the same company that is set up to own the 30% of Royal Mail shares they still own.
The Postal Services Act
The Royal Mail’s fixed rate service – also called the Universal Service – has been decreed by law, meaning that the company have to keep postage costs at a standard rate; the new privatisation deal which was agreed in The Postal Services Act of 2011, ensured that the company would have to continue offering fixed rates until at least the year 2021.
As the Royal Mail have modernised over the years they have diversified their services beyond standard posting to recognise the increased competition from private courier services such as Parcelforce. The Royal Mail now offer Special Delivery services that compete with rival next-day delivery offers; they also offer a range of business services suitable for large companies who will often need to bulk send, in many cases offering sliding scale costs based on the volume of post required.
Royal Mail Staff
Currently employing around 150,000 permanent postal workers, the Royal Mail are one of the largest employers in the country with an additional 18,000 casual workers also employed during the busy pre-Christmas period in November as well as December. The company have been involved with several disputes with their workers over the years – having created in-house agency Angard Staffing Solutions to recruit temporary workers, it emerged that Angard had not paid a number of workers for several weeks. There have been several strikes within the last century – notably a seven-week long walkout by the Royal Mails staff in 1971 over a pay disagreement. The last decade meanwhile has seen several strikes over issues regarding job security as the company began modernising at speed – leading to its eventual privatisation.
Despite this discontent – as well as the statistics that suggest around half a million letters delivered through the company go missing annually – the Royal Mail remains hugely popular within the UK, boasting revenue of over £9 million per year. They are a visually striking company, with the red Royal Mail vans a sight synonymous with Britain worldwide – not to mention their bright red pillar boxes which they take postal collections from. During the 2012 Olympics, the Royal Mail painted selected pillar boxes gold to represent each British Olympic Champion at the London Olympics.