The year that was: September – December 2009

As the year draws to a close, let’s look back at the headlines the mail and express industries made during the final months of 2009 – it’s the final installment of Post&Parcel’s review of the year. As autumn began in the UK, Royal Mail workers voted more than three to one in favour of a national strike as they sought action over job cuts and working conditions. 61,623 postal workers out of a total of 80,830 agreed to strike. CWU deputy general Dave Ward called it a “huge vote of no confidence in Royal Mail management”, whilst Royal Mail managing director Mark Higgins called on the CWU to “abandon its unjustified strikes and to help the business deliver the service our customers deserve”. The UK was littered with localised strikes before 22-23 October when, on the orders of the CWU, national industrial action commenced. A sporadic striking period continued for weeks before a deal was reached between the Union and Royal Mail bosses that led to a period of calm before Christmas. Talks are set to resume in the New Year, and strikes are likely to continue.

Leaving the UK behind, and over to South America where Brazilian postal workers also went on strike. After weeks of unrest, employees returned to their jobs after a prolonged national strike as local unions accept a pay increase. According to Correios, the Brazilian postal service, a pay increase of 9%, retroactive to August this year, plus $100 linear increase from January 2010, was agreed with a number of the unions. A total of 30 Brazilian postal union locals went on an indefinite strike, covering about 70% of the nation’s 109,000 postal workers, with a 41% wage increase being sought. Rio de Janeiro workers returned on the 18 September, joining the staff of Bahia, Ribeirão Preto, Santos and Bauru, Santa Maria and Uberaba. By 21 September only 24% of the 109,000 remained on strike, according to Correios. In a meeting held on 24 September, employees in Para decided to accept the company’s proposal. Two other unions, Sao Paulo and Santa Catarina, also decided to end the strike.

The strife at USPS reached fever pitch as the company announced a net loss of $3.8bn for 2009 in November. This result comes despite its cost-cutting efforts resulting in $6bn in savings and a $4bn reduction in required payments for retiree health benefits. “Our 2009 fiscal year proved to be one of the most challenging in the history of the Postal Service,” said CFO Joseph Corbett. “The deep economic recession, and to a lesser extent the ongoing migration of mail to electronic alternatives, significantly affected all mail products, creating a large imbalance between revenues and costs.” Corbett said that USPS responded aggressively to unprecedented mail volume declines and the ongoing recession. “We undertook comprehensive cost-cutting measures across all areas of the organisation,” he said. “Most notably, we reduced work hours by 115m, or the equivalent of 65,000 full-time employees – a larger number than the entire workforce at more than 80% of Fortune 500 companies today.”

2009 was a big year for the environment, with many Posts and express companies adopting new environmental programmes. The tonic was added earlier this month when a landmark target was set for cutting carbon emissions – meaning that the postal industry is the first services sector to set a global emissions goal. The International Post Corporation (IPC), which represents the world’s leading post operators, announced that 20 member postal operators will work together to collectively reduce their carbon emissions by 20% by 2020, based on 2008 levels. The objective was set as Jean-Paul Bailly, chairman of the International Post Corporation and CEO of Groupe La Poste, presented the “IPC Postal Sector Sustainability Report on the Environment”, the industry’s first ever combined sustainability report.

And finally…

Australia Post staff walkout in the lead up to Christmas over pay and working conditions … Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) signed a contract that grants the UPU a top-level domain name, .post (dot.post) … Botond Szebeny took his place as the new secretary general for PostEurop … The new Japanese government scrapped postal privatisation proposals … Norway Post shut down the Danish division of its Bring Citymail arm … TNT urged workers’ unions to reconsider proposals for a labour deal.

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