CWU launches campaign to protect the post
4th December 2012
The Communication Workers Union is today (Tuesday) launching a
major campaign to highlight the threat to the UK's universal
postal service and jobs within the industry.
- Unfair competition is threatening the universal service
- Ofcom must step in to address unfair competition
- Competitors should match Royal Mail pay, but be forced to pay Living Wage as minimum
- CWU will arrange boycott of competitors' mail if
nothing is done
Billy Hayes, CWU general secretary, said:
"Today we're launching a major initiative to protect
postal services in the face of mounting threats to jobs and
"Under unfair competition we've seen prices rise, services diminish, closures and job losses. Competition and privatisation are old-fashioned theories which have had their day. What's important is decent services and jobs and that's what we're standing up for."
Concern for jobs and services
CWU is concerned that unfair competition is undermining the sustainability of the universal service - the six days a week one price goes anywhere service which Royal Mail provides to all addresses in the UK. The union is also concerned at the impact on jobs across the industry, in particular the quality of pay and conditions for postal workers. Private postal company mail makes up 45% of letter volumes delivered by Royal Mail, a figure which has consistently grown under competition arrangements. New end-to-end competition is a worrying expansion further undermining the USO.
Dave Ward, CWU deputy general secretary, said: "What we're seeing is private companies being able to do what they want with little concern for how it affects postal-services in the round. For example, TNT is conducting end-to-end deliveries without having to meet any quality standards while paying people little more than minimum wage. That will lead to a race to the bottom on pay which will be bad news for the economy in general and postal workers in particular.
"It's not a coincidence that thousands of Royal Mail jobs have been lost and mail centres and delivery offices closed since the UK postal market was opened up to liberalisation ahead of the rest of Europe in 2000. If it's not addressed, the effects on postal services for everyone could be catastrophic. We can't have competition being driven by poverty pay and reduced service standards.
"We want a fair deal for all workers across the postal sector with decent pay and conditions, but current competition means cutting costs at the expense of decent jobs. TNT competes by paying poverty wages. When TNT boasts of creating 20,000 jobs over five years, this means 20,000 jobs below the living wage, not on full-time hours and reducing fairly paid jobs elsewhere in the industry. We need fair competition between postal operators not competition at the expense of living standards."
CWU is calling for the postal regulator Ofcom to step in and redress the balance of unfair competition to:
- Protect the universal service and end cherry-picking in delivery
- Maintain quality, affordable postal services
- Prevent competition on the basis of low wages, insecure jobs and poor conditions
CWU will hold a consultative ballot of its members in Royal Mail in the New Year with the intention of boycotting competitors' mail. This would mean that any mail sent via a company other than Royal Mail would not be delivered. If no progress is made by the regulator then the boycott will be put in place.
Dave Ward continued: "We're not prepared to stand by and watch the jobs of our members be ruined by unfair competition which could be avoided. Boycotting parts of the mail which are damaging services is a proportionate response to the threat posed by unfair competition."
Competition in the postal market has been unfairly set up and mis-managed. Downstream Access (DSA) arrangements allow private companies to cherry pick profitable bulk mail contracts, taking vast revenue streams away from Royal Mail. They sort and transport mail to a local Royal Mail office where they pay a low access fee to get Royal Mail postmen and women to walk, drive and cycle up every street in the UK to deliver that mail, what's known as the 'final mile'. That's the expensive part. TNT has also been allowed to undertake end-to-end deliveries in some urban areas, further eroding Royal Mail's volumes and revenue. AT THE SAME TIME, Royal Mail is obliged to meet strict quality of service standards and deliver to every address in the UK - regardless of how remote or expensive it is. This is the Universal Service Obligation which means all people in the UK enjoy equal treatment and high standards of service regardless of whether they live in an urban or rural area. The USO is in effect subsidised by Royal Mail's profits in areas such as urban and bulk mail. There is only so much revenue and mail traffic in the system. If unfair competition is allowed to continue unabated, it could destroy the high service standards we enjoy, the USO could collapse and that would be a disaster for post services and all who rely on them; both the public and - crucially - small businesses. Private companies will not set up deliveries to all parts of the UK, only to densely populated urban areas where they can make a return. The profit for a few private companies would come at the expense of higher costs for all consumers, small businesses and services for rural communities.
The campaign was launched at The Future of UK Postal Services Conference, DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel - Tower of London, London.
CWU is the largest trade union in the postal sector representing people working in all parts of Royal Mail Group, as well as the Post Office, UK Mail and elsewhere. It has over 200,000 members.
CWU Deputy General Secretary (Postal), Dave Ward speaks to Sky News
(click on the image to view)
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