The week that was: 28 January 2011

Strike at TNT Australia, UK police seizes scam mail, and USPS look to close more branches… Good afternoon readers. It’s Friday afternoon, it’s the end of another week, it’s time for ‘the week that was’.

Workers at TNT Express Australia are striking today (Friday) after negotiations with the Transport Workers Union (TWU) broke down. On Thursday, officials from both parties met in an attempt to settle their differences before the industrial action began, but a deal was not struck. Employees are pushing ahead with a series of four-hour stoppages across Australia, with workers also voting to impose an indefinite ban on the loading and unloading of vehicles operated by outside hire companies at all TNT sites tomorrow (Saturday). The industrial action was voted on by members last month and passed with an 88% majority. A previous agreement will see employees receive an 8% rise of two years, but TNT and the TWU remain at loggerheads over the Union’s request for an extra 2% employer contribution to superannuation (pension scheme). The TWU is also demanding an increase in site rates for casual or labour hire employees. TNT said it was “disappointed with the outright rejection of our genuine attempts to bring the current negotiations to a positive conclusion”. However, no sympathy was spared by TWU national secretary Tony Sheldon. He said: “This is a company that employs 4,500 permanent staff, but also pays the wages of over 3,000 casual and labour-hire employees. By not including a site-rate for the agreement, TNT is effectively refusing to include almost half its workforce in the negotiations and any improvements in the agreement.”

Thousands of scam letters have been seized by UK police this week. As well as intercepting the mail haul, the Metropolitan Police Service’s Economic and Specialist Crime Unit closed five virtual offices used by the scammers. Mail has become a common tool for international fraudsters, who attempt to get vulnerable recipients to invest in fake lotteries and inheritance scams. Police estimate that more than £3.5bn is ‘scammed’ from UK citizens each year – with £2.4bn of this originating from mail correspondence. The police operation – which started earlier this year – is being run in partnership with UK operator Royal Mail and international mail provider Spring Global Mail. With the help of the mail operators, police asked 11 victims to collate their post over a four-week period, before they used a postage paid impression (PPI) to track the mail back to its original source. Royal Mail and Spring Global Mail then alerted police when the next shipment of post bearing this PPI arrived in the UK. Gary Simpson, international director, Royal Mail, said: “We don’t want any of our postmen or women handling or delivering mail that causes harm or is criminal in intent. Royal Mail is working hard with the police to clamp down on this type of distressing activity.”

USPS could close 2,000 branches from March – telling Post&Parcel that it wants its “customers to stop looking at the Postal Service as only brick and mortar post offices”. The move follows the closure of 491 branches last year, as the company continues to battle huge losses. For the last financial year, USPS lost $8.5bn – prompting the company to search for ways to cut costs even further. Currently, USPS has a network of more than 32,000 stores. The operator argues that many of the offices are now outdated with the rise of the digital era, prompted by falling mail volumes. When contacted by Post&Parcel, Brennan said: “We want customers to stop looking at the Postal Service as only brick and mortar post offices with the flag pole in front – look online at, look at the USPS app on iPhones (the #1 free business app), look at the more than 63,000 retail locations like Office Depot, grocery stores, drug stores and bank ATMs that sell stamps and in some cases, other postal products and services. And look at the more than 3,800 contract postal units across the nation.” Brennan said that “mail volume has declined by 43.1bn pieces in the past five years alone and [that USPS is] trying to do everything we can to reduce costs, save money, provide a national service”.

And finally…

World Mail & Express Americas is fast approaching – with the event taking place in Mexico City on 7-9 February. The Americas market is a hotbed of opportunity for post and parcel providers alike, so book now to avoid being left behind!

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