Job cuts threaten postal services and working conditions in Europe
Massive job cuts in the European postal sector threaten services and are leading to deteriorating conditions for postal workers, a new report finds.
The report from UNI Post & Logistics, the global union for the postal sector, looked at job losses, wages and customer service since liberalisation began fourteen years ago.
It found that jobs at national post services of major European economies fell by around 30% between 1998 and 2013. Wages fell by up to 40%.
The report, launched today by a group of MEPs at the European Parliament, also warned that daily deliveries are under threat if the European Commission pushes ahead with its plans to further liberalise the sector.
The Universal Service Obligation, which includes a 5 day minimum delivery requirement, could now be scrapped after a European Commission-backed report called for a “more flexible definition of universal service.”
UNI Post & Logistics Global Union represents more than 2.5 million members worldwide and is part of the larger UNI Global Union, which represents more than 20 million workers in the service and skills sector.
UNI Europa Regional Secretary Oliver Roethig said:
“The postman and post woman as we know them are becoming an endangered species.
“If we look at the balance sheet for the postal sector since liberalisation, we see a huge drop in jobs, a huge drop in wages and deterioration in services for customers.
“Despite all our warnings over the last 20 years, the European Commission has broken its promise to create more net jobs, better quality and better prices.”
“Workers across Europe are telling us they no longer have time to talk to their customers or provide a true service to their communities because they are being worked to the bone.”
MEPs George Bachs of Luxembourg, Denis de Jong of Netherlands and Austria’s Eveleyn Regner say they will fight to save daily deliveries. The MEPs argue that liberalisation to date has led to a far worse service for customers, massive job cuts and plummeting wages in the sector.
Georges Bach MEP said “I regret that my predictions regarding the effects of the liberalisation of the European postal markets have become reality. Once again, the workers bear the costs of failed attempts to improve services and drive down costs. Postal services can simply not work effectively if their business is purely profit motivated."
In 2002, the European Commission predicted that postal liberalisation would result in net job gains, but the opposite has occurred. The majority of any new jobs are part-time, self-employed or temporary contracts. Only in Ireland and Luxembourg was there an increase in jobs at the national provider.
In Germany, Deutsche Post’s letter segment cut 38,000 jobs between 1999 and 2012, amounting to 44 per cent of total employment. Following liberalisation, employment at new competitors in Germany amounted to around only 16,000 full-time equivalents.
In the United Kingdom, 19% of jobs were lost at Royal Mail between 2003 and 2012, and in France, 21% of workers lost their jobs at La Poste between 1998 and 2012.
Wages have also been hit hard, the UNI Global Union report finds. Many new companies pay wages considerably lower than the national services, which held a monopoly prior to liberalisation. This created an argument for national services to reduce their costs to remain competitive.
Deutsche Post cut wages for newly hired workers by 30% in 2001. Austrian Post workers receive 25% less if they were hired after 2008. In the Netherlands and Belgium, new job categories were invented in order to pay letter deliverers less. The new workers earn about 40% less than their predecessors.
In Greece, workers at the national state service took a 35% wage cut in 2009 as part of country-wide austerity measures. The average wages at national services are now between 20% and 30% lower than national average wages.
The wages paid by new competitors are usually lower still than at national operators. In Germany and Austria, the wage difference between the national operators and new competitors is around 30% while in Spain it was 35% before the financial crisis but since might as risen to 50%.
While prices may have reduced for large corporate clients that can negotiate their own deals, this is not the case for household users. Instead, the report finds liberalisation has in most cases led to longer waiting times at post offices and an unfair focus on highly populated areas at the expense of rural customers.
With the postal market in a state of constant change, the delivery of traditional mail has decreased in part due to the internet and new technologies. The MEPs and UNI Global Union say they are well aware of the changing volumes, but that this will only become worse if the delivery of mail becomes less frequent and less reliable.
The deterioration of postal-sector employment has been underpinned by a fragmentation in industrial relations. With few exceptions, the national services are covered by company-based collective agreements where the new competitors operate without collective labour regulations other than those imposed by law or with an agreement offering worse conditions than those granted by the national operator.
A full copy of the report is attached to this web article.
Notes to Editors
A recent report for the European Commission Main Developments in the Postal Sector released in August last year recommended a “more flexible definition of universal service at the EU level” and said that EU principles could allow members “to adapt parameters such as service quality (related delivery frequency) to the needs of users.”