Defending the Universal Service

Ofcom defend the USO
CWU has taken part in regional Ofcom meetings being held to discuss the organisation's workplan for 2013. CWU activists have contributed by raising the profile of the postal affairs part of the regulator's remit and put the issue of the Universal Service firmly on the agenda. Meetings took place in London on Tuesday January 29, in Cardiff and Glasgow on Wednesday January 30, and will be held in Belfast on February 6.


NEC member Phil Browne led the final CWU delegation on the Ofcom 2013 Annual Report presentations at Stormont in Northern Ireland. Accompanied with regional secretary Lawrence Huston, branch secretaries Bobby Weatherall and Dave Moffett and postal organiser Kerry Fleck.

Raising the issue of unfair competition, Bobby explained how Ofcom have allowed Royal Mail's competitors to cherry pick the most lucrative parts of the business and highlighted how this is putting the USO under threat.

The CWU delegation took the opportunity to discuss at length the CWU's concerns with Ofcom board member Dame Lynne Brindley and Jonathon Rose, the director of Ofcom for Northern Ireland.

Similar to their response at the Glasgow meeting (see below) Ofcom reiterated that their objective in relation to the Postal Industry is primarily the provision of the USO.


Around 40 people from the communications sector attended Ofcom's regional meeting in Cardiff for the presentation of their draft annual 2013/14 plan.

Kye Dudd
Challenging the postal regulator to "live up to their legal obligation to protect the USO", CWU NEC member Kye Dudd, said: "Ofcom is not only allowing unfettered competition to cherry pick work which damages Royal Mail's ability to provide the USO, but is also supporting competitors with a business model based on low wages and precarious terms of employment."

Drawing audible gasps from the room, Kye concluded: "If Ofcom doesn't live up to its legal duties to protect the USO then the CWU would consider a boycott of the competitors' mail."

CWU Welsh secretary Gary Watkins confirmed that members were "absolutely determined to defend the USO at the present level."

Following the success of this meeting, the Wales Ofcom executive invited the CWU for a further meeting to discuss the union's concerns in more detail.


Activists from the Glasgow Amal branch and members of the NEC attended Ofcom's Scottish regional meeting on Wednesday. Focusing on protecting the USO, the CWU contingent expressed concerns about the impact of competition on the USO and used the TNT trial in London as an example of how unrestricted competition has allowed Royal Mail's competitors to cherry pick the most lucrative parts of the business.

Confirming that the overall objective of Ofcom was to protect the USO, James Thickett, on the Ofcom panel said they would closely monitor the trial in London as the protection of the USO was more important than competition.


Ofcom USO demo

At the meeting in London, CWU regional secretary Jim Kirwan highlighted the dangers to the USO of any reduction in the six-day-a-week service and NEC member Carl Maden agreed: "A loss of one day would mean the loss of thousands of jobs and irreparable damage to the quality of service to the public."

Download the leaflet: Defending the Universal Service for more information.

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