Privatise The Post Office - Co-Op Style

by @edent | 5 comments | Read ~229 times.

Is there an alternative to privatising the Post Office?  Given that the workers control the means of production - could they also own the means of production.

In short - could the workers purchase Royal Mail?  The idea isn't as crazy as it first may seem.  We need to take the market value of the Post Office's shares - then divide them by the number of workers willing to put their money where their mouth is.

According to the CWU, roughly 80,000 postal workers voted in their latest strike ballot. Around 60,000 voted for strike action.  The CWU claims to have 240,000 total membersThe Post Office has 141,000 employees.

I can't find out how much the Post Office is worth.  I wrote to their press office but didn't receive a reply.  Let's assume that the post office is as valuable as, say Vodafone Group.  I choose Vodafone for a few reasons - they're a modern communications company and I work for them (this post is my own opinion and does not represent Vodafone's views).

Vodafone trades on the FTSE.  The share price today is about £1.35.  It has 526 million shares.
£1.35 * 526,000,000 = £710,100,000
Vodafone has 79,000 employees.
£710,100,000 / 79,000 = £8989.
So, each Vodafone employee would have to stump up around £9,000 to move the company into the ownership of the workforce.  That's not a totally extravagant amount of money - although remember that 79,000 employee figure includes everyone from the CEO to the people who clean the toilets in Vodafone Afghanistan.

It also doesn't take in to account that not everyone would be willing to sell their shares, the share price may fluctuate based on the buying, and the some employees already have shareholdings.  But it gives us a rough idea of what the workforce would have to do in order to own the company.

So, how much would each postie have to find to purchase her share of the Post Office?

Here's a crappy visualisation.  I take a range of values for the Post Office's worth from £100 million up to £1 billion.

Possible per-worker cost of buying the Post Office

Possible per-worker cost of buying the Post Office

I assume a range of posties putting up their cash ranging from 24,000 (less than half who voted for a strike) up to 240 thousand - the entirety of CWU's membership.

The results are quite stunning.  If the Royal Mail's shares were worth "only" £100 million - every CWU member would have to pay £417 for their share of the Post Office.  If only half those who voted to strike wanted to invest, it would cost them £4,167 each.

Now, let's assume that the Post Office goes for £1 billion - which is possible given that selling off the Tote, Dartford Crossing and Student Loans book would raise £3 billion.

It would take every member of CWU buying in to drop the price to £4,167.  If only half those strikers chose to invest they'd be paying £41,667 each.

Now, I don't know about you, but £42 grand isn't something I just have in my wallet.  But, is it such an unobtainable sum?  Could those posties re-mortgage, sell a kidney or otherwise raise the money?

Could privatisation be the workers' chance to run the Post Office in the way they think it should be run? For people - not profit. Putting the needs of the workers on an equal footing with the needs of the customers.

I'm sure I've got my sums wrong somewhere - and I'd appreciate any corrections.  At the very least it shows that dedicated postal workers could have a chance to gather a significant stake in the Post Office.

5 thoughts on “Privatise The Post Office - Co-Op Style

  1. ianvisits says:

    You don't actually need the postal staff to have the cash up front.

    If their business plan is viable, they can ape the management buyout system and fund the purchase with debt.

    So long as their plan enables the repayment of that debt, then the banks will lend the money. It's a simple case of business economics.

    Of course, if their business plan sucks, then they might learn the hard way that going on strike at the drop of a hat is a pretty daft way to run a company.

    1. They also don't need to buy all of the shares. 50% +1 will get them a controlling stake.

  2. Lindsay Mackie says:

    Could we include customers? there is always the John Lewis partnership model- the CWU is against that, but they will really have to start looking at alternative ways of keeping Royal Mail ours, and not carved up. I dont think we should have the John Lewis model in its entirety, but its a way of looking at how to form a modern mutual. Then there is the Trust model...maybe we should get some people together to bang out some outlines?

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