Friday, June 29, 2007

Postal Workers Dispute

Recently Amazon, the internet book store, shifted its bulk business from the Royal Mail to a rival company.

Rival companies include DX, TNT and UK Mail. You will have seen a variety of franks in the right hand corner of your letters, where the Queen’s head used to be, denoting a number of different companies.

Have you seen any DX, TNT or UK Mail postal workers on the street? What colour uniform to they wear?

The truth is, of course, that you’ve seen no such thing. The only people delivering mail are Royal Mail employees. Your postman and woman - the same person who has always delivered your letters, and who will, as likely as not, know you by name - is still the person who greets you at your door every morning with your mail. There are no rival companies to the Royal Mail in the delivery business.

What you have instead are companies allowed by the government to become parasites on the Royal Mail postal system. The process is called “down-stream access”. What this means is that a rival company can bid for a profitable section of Royal Mail’s trade, do all the easy work, drop it off at a Royal Mail delivery office and then demand that Royal Mail workers deliver it, at the rate of 13p per letter: less than half of what other customers pay.

Of all the companies in the postal business only Royal Mail has a universal delivery obligation.

In other words, what all this amounts to is privatisation by the back door. The trade from profitable city-to-city, bulk mail delivery and corporate sectors such as banks and utilities are sold off to the private companies, while the Royal Mail is expected to continue to deliver the rest: from Land’s End to John O’Groats, the rural, obscure and out-of-the-way post, the inner city areas where no other company would dare enter.

The current industrial action is not just about an under-inflation 2.5 % pay offer, it is also about diminishing conditions, lack of resources, and a contempt for quality of service. It is about whether we want a high-quality postal service in the future. It is about whether we want more junk mail through our post or less.

As part of the package on offer postal workers are being asked to deliver more items of junk through your post every day for the same pay. As if we aren't already chopping down enough trees to turn into adverts for hearing aids or double-glazing. Postal workers refer to this material as "landfill". It goes through the letter box and then straight into the bin.

Royal Mail have been bandying it about that postal workers can earn over £400 per week. I can speak from personal experience now and tell you that the average take-home pay is between £220-£250 per week.

I can also tell you that it is one of the most stressful jobs I have ever done, and that there were days when I worked nine hours without a single break: not even a sit down and a cup-of-tea.

In case you don’t know it, Royal Mail has a pet name for you: the ordinary, non-corporate householder sending post cards and letters and greetings cards the old fashioned way. They call you “Granny Smith”.

Granny Smith is every old lady on every estate who needs looking after and for whom the postal service is a life-line.

The Royal Mail management are on record as saying (I was at the meeting) that they no longer care about Granny Smith. Only the corporate business client matters now.


Kurtz said...

Well said - when will this silly, wrong-headed country remember that not everything can be reduced to simple financial profit and loss? Seems like capitalism - red in tooth and claw - is perceived as the only truth now. My wife works at our local Post Office and sees first-hand the enormous importance that it has for the local community, especially the more vulnerable members. Her boss is driven to distraction by couriers - Royal Mail's competitors - who come in asking for directions!...

Anonymous said...

I want to know which company's been dropping bulk deliveries of unsolicited junk mail (6 -7 articles at least at any one time) through my letterbox every week. They'll lose their fingers if I catch them.
I simply bundle it all up and shove it back in the postbox - see how they like it.