Continuing into the future Royal Mail as a universal Postal Service, aye that’ll be right

Royal Mail made a profit of £404 million last year but this, it seems, is not the point.

Over recent years the Post Office has had several of its core services taken from it so and now offers far less to its customers, especially important to the elderly. Human interaction is fast disappearing and being replaced by websites. Most older people beyond their sixties are not familiar with computers but nevertheless ‘progress’ advances in ways which ignore their particular needs.

Picking up the weekly pension used to be a simple process of nipping out to the local Post Office. Alright there were problems of druggies following them out and mugging them but if it’s not druggies it’s the government. Pensioners were ‘persuaded’ to have pensions paid directly into banks. Fine, except the banks have disappeared from most of the streets where people live. Pensioners were forced to key in their account numbers in Post Offices. Now many pensioners, especially the very old, do not have nimble fingers and find it hard to see the numbers and complete this procedure without being observed by people behind them. The same applies to those who are forced to use keypads at cash-points in busy shops. Both remembering pin numbers and shielding your fingers from others is a real problem. Bank spokespeople come on radio and TV and say the elderly have alternatives. No they haven’t. When pressed the alternative is online banking. I use my computer for all kinds of transactions but not for banking. Banking, you’re joking.

The Post Office, and we, its customers, has suffered systematic attack from government. Removing TV licences was an outrage. It’s a tricky matter now to discover where you can pay your licence – all a ploy to get everyone to sign up to Direct Debit.

Car owners are bombarded by propaganda designed to get them to renew car licences online – with additional enticements of winning a car if they do.

Successive governments have determinedly run-down the profitable services that used to be provided by our Post Offices to the extent they can say they handle less business and are an expensive liability so they continue to close at alarming rates.

What has happened to our Post Offices is to happen to Royal Mail. For most of us Royal Mail and the Post Office go hand in hand. But we are old fashioned. There must be progress. For progress read reduction in service.

Just days ago there was a piece on TV about how the PO is handling much more mail – from eBay and online shopping, the trend to send a card for every occasion, postcards, official letters etc.

Then Richard Hooper’s updated report on Royal Mail declared that familiar refrain that mail figures are going down. Something clicked in my head. I looked back at an article written by a postman last year in The London Review of Books . ‘Figures are down’ he wrote … ‘ the joke at the delivery office.’ Posties are being encouraged to carry heavier and heavier bags because of management pressures.

A former postman neighbour of mine packed in the job after putting up with years of poor management, deliberately designed it appeared, to keep employees unsettled and on their toes. Strangely, efficiency is not a term PO management is familiar with. Who picks up the pressure? The posties. Royal Mail management appear to have no idea how to manage according to shop floor workers. Why should this be? Could it be that they are part of the strategy to run down Royal Mail?

The huge costs of the Mail workers pension scheme is another reason given by Vince Cable and Hooper for selling off part of Royal Mail. But we know that no private company will take on this pension scheme and it will be the government, for that read us, who pay. ~So how does that change anything in relations to privatising Royal Mail? What is Hooper saying – take privatisation, sorry de-regulation, and get your pension, don’t and hard luck, pal.

De-regulation is a softly, softly way to the complete privatisation of Royal Mail. The sweetener is a proposed offer of shares to Royal Mail workers. Aye, so they’ll hold them for how long and then what?

Cable talks of reinvesting the money made by selling off the Royal Mail. So the money ‘saved’ will then be paid out to subsidise a semi-private company. What’s the point of this?
And at what cost to the consumer, especially consumers away from the hub of Mail services, SE England? Already there are calls to use post codes to determine how much a posted item will cost. This is already happening with companies in England charging extra to ship goods to ‘the Highlands’. The Highlands now takes in many non-Highland areas such as Aberdeen. All the extra costs are worked out in relation to the London area so just wait until it costs more to get mail sent out to us in Scotland – and utility companies will slap on extra charges to cover this amount.

Utility companies have mainly gone over to private mail operators such as TNT and UK Mail which got the contracts by undercutting Royal Mail. Naturally they have not recruited postmen and women to actually deliver the mail and this falls to Royal Mail which is the expensive part of the process. A lunatic system.

We are all paying for these operators to reap huge profits from this bizarre set-up and this category of mail is not counted as mail handled by Royal Mail as far as the Hooper Report is concerned.

The pressure that results from reducing the profitable end of Royal Mail is a reduction in staff which means the workers remaining have to do more and are under severe strain as can be seen in the ‘running posties’ on our pavements who are answerable to bullying managers for any undelivered mail designated as deliberate withholding of mail and a sackable offence.

According to the men and women who work in Royal Mail – assertion s that the level of mail being handled is down and continuing to drop are not true. The level of mail going through the hands of Royal Mail used to be weighed but now is estimated as an average. This average was calculated through an agreement between the Union and management that each box mail of mail Royal Mail receives for sorting and delivery contains 208 items. This was reduced by management to 150 and so it can say that less mail is coming into Royal Mail. When the Union forced an investigation of these numbers, boxes were shown to contain on average 267 letters. The management and Hopper, however, glibly assert numbers of mailed items are down while the posties know they are increasing.

Any semblance Royal Mail, as with the Post Office, had to public service is disappearing fast. The impact of the total privatisation of our mail service will be hugely damaging to Scotland. There are profits to be made still but these come mainly through handling the mail from big corporations. These, as we know, have already been transferred to Royal Mail competitors with Royal Mail picking up the costly bits of door-to-door deliveries. Do you imagine private companies mail companies will wish to continue delivering mail through our letterboxes? Of course not. They have chosen not to already. TNT and UK Mail could set up their own delivery services to take letters to each house in the UK but don’t.

We in Scotland will be charged more for a mail delivery service that will be much inferior to the one we have now. We will still be paying, through our taxes, to support the private corporations which slink in to slice away bits of Royal Mail for their shareholders. As happened with the railways – it will be privatisation subsidised by the tax payer. Every tax payer. There is the £10+ billion pension deficit to start with.
We are being ripped off.

Stand up and scream against this eradication of a quality service we cannot afford to lose.

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