Don’t kill off the six-day postal service, posties’ union urges government
By Bill Heaney
The CWU – Communication Workers’ Union – have urged the government not to make a “knee jerk” move to reduce Royal Mail delivery days from six to five.
The posties have warned that an Ofcom suggestion to cut services is the “worst possible” move, and Jackie Baillie, the MSP for Dumbarton is supporting them.
In a statement, Ocom, the UK’s communications regulator said that Royal Mail should “become more efficient” and “modernise” its parcel network.
After having surveyed several thousand people and businesses, it said that the yearly decline of people sending and receiving letters since 2015 has been 5%, and pointed out that online shopping has seen parcels increase at a rate of around 10% in the same time frame.
It judged that unless Royal Mail can modernise itself adequately to meet these changing demands, the sustainability of the universal service “could be at risk in the longer term”.
It suggested that reducing the USO from six days a week to five days a week would help this situation.
However, this has been rejected by the CWU leadership, who have strongly defended the principle of a six-day service.
Responding to the news, CWU General Secretary Dave Ward said: “At a time when postal services have never been more essential and we should be investing in our national infrastructure, we should be looking for ways to protect and enhance a six day universal postal service, not for reasons to cut it back.
“While letter volumes have continued to decline, there is huge demand for affordable high-quality parcel services that cover every part of the country and during the pandemic Royal Mail has handled over 90% of all Covid-19 testing kits.”
Dave insisted that a six-day universal service is “essential” and suggested we should be looking at devising new methods of ensuring the long-term sustainability of the service.
He added: “It is ironic that this news from the regulator has come the day before Black Friday, one of the busiest posting days of the year, when no other person in the country is thinking about how to cut their postal services. It is essential that the government and MPs protect the country’s infrastructure and do not move to scrap the universal service at the worst possible time.
“Ofcom’s research shows that 40% of people would feel cut-off from society without a daily postal service and 61% of people think it’s important to maintain a 6-day service.
“The role of the regulator and the government should be to ensure this continues and the CWU will be fighting to defend a vital public service.”
Concurring with him was CWU Deputy General Secretary Terry Pullinger, who said: “Once again, Ofcom has produced a predictable, conventional wisdom but dated, report.
“Many countries have knee jerked towards reducing their USO and have weakened the social inclusion and connectivity of their citizens. If this report was up to date it would reflect how the current pandemic has totally proven the worth of the six-day USO, which does not only deliver letters.
“Ofcom makes reference to the current USO being letters six days and parcel five days, and yet despite making a huge case for the need to be more efficient in delivering parcels, does not recommend moving USO parcels to six days. This move would totally benefit the nation, offering affordable, guaranteed, one price goes everywhere universal service six days a week, and if you are going there with parcels why would you not still deliver any available letters – surely that is efficient.
“The CWU would support that change. The CWU supports greater investment in parcel automation which would drive the efficiency they desire. The CWU support opening the delivery of commercial parcel offerings across the whole day from 07.00hrs to 19.00hrs, seven days a week.
“The Universal Postal Service Obligation is one of our greatest social inventions and has massively proved its worth again during this pandemic some 500 hundred years or more since it was first introduced.
“Whilst Ofcom enjoy loading the gun it would be unforgiveable for the Government to fire it, run that consultation again Ofcom and see the results you get from the public and businesses now having witnessed its true worth during 2020.”