The week that was: 22 April 2011

UPU security concerns, US-Hong Kong e-commerce deal, and Canadian workers look to strike… Happy Easter from Post&Parcel. We will be back on April 26, but until then here is ‘the week that was’.

“Permanent security measures could cause problems for the UPU treaty if they compromise the principles of freedom of transit and the universal postal service.” That was the message from Universal Postal Union (UPU) director general Edouard Dayan this week, as a UPU security group staged its first meeting to discuss the development and application of global postal security standards. The inter-committee – formed from a group of postal operators and international organisations – met at the UPU headquarters in Berne to explore security issues surrounding the global supply chain. “It is essential to work together at the international level to define global standards in this area that apply to all actors rather than having individual countries or supranational bodies setting standards for everyone,” said Dayan. The group was formed in response to security measures put in place by the United States Transportation Security Agency for US-bound international mail in November, prompted by the interception of two bomb packages from Yemen a month earlier. “The measures nevertheless forced the national Posts of UPU member countries worldwide to change their operational procedures overnight. Some Posts stopped accepting or delayed US-bound mail items, including courier products, and faced higher transportation costs and the shutdown of major mail transit hubs, causing mail backlogs around the world,” a UPU statement said. The UPU has worked with the TSA to explain the mail network’s specificity and relax the measures for low-risk mail. Several countries resumed full service at the end of March and early April. Others are still experiencing mail blockages or delays, the Union confirmed. With the European Union also developing air transportation security requirements and the possibility of further extensions of the TSA measures, the UPU is seeking a coordinated international solution to meet security needs without hampering the movement of mail or flow of trade.

E-commerce merchants in Hong Kong are to be offered a new trackable shipping service, following a bilateral agreement between Hongkong Post and the US Postal Service. The two posts are launched a new lightweight parcels shipping service called ePacket this week, which is particularly aimed at internet-based retailers in Hong Kong selling to consumers in the United States. The service covers packages up to 2kg (4.4 pounds) in weight, and features tracking and Delivery Confirmation. The Postal Service said items would be shipped from Hong Kong using co-branded, barcoded shipping labels. On reaching the US, packages will join the First-Class Mail stream. The service will offer in-process scanning information for tracing items through Hongkong Post’s tracking system, and through the USPS Track and Confirm services at its website. USPS and Hongkong Post have jointly developed data-rich shipping labels that include barcoding technology readable by both of the posts, along with logistics planning and Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) information exchanges. Paul Vogel, president and chief marketing/sales officer at USPS, said: “This agreement offers visibility previously unavailable in the small packet segment between Hongkong Post and the Postal Service. It shows the Postal Service has the flexibility to develop service options to meet market demand from businesses around the world. Further, it solidifies our role as a key supplier in global commerce.”

Earlier this week, postal workers in Canada voted overwhelmingly in favour of striking if Canada Post does not come forward with an acceptable wage deal. The Canadian Union of Postal Workers said that its members had accepted plans for a work stoppage with a 95.5% approval. Canada Post said that the vote did not necessarily mean a strike would happen, but that if it did, the earliest it could happen would be May 25. Talks over a new collective bargaining agreement have been underway for six months, going into a conciliation process from January. The union, which represents 54,000 members, is demanding above-inflation pay increases and better benefits, as well as job protection and improved working conditions. It points to the fact that Canada Post has posted 16 consecutive years of profit, and is currently modernising its network to make “huge” productivity improvements. A strike vote was held from March 25 until yesterday, with CUPW National President Denis Lemelin claiming that the “sky-high” approval from his members would put pressure on the Crown Corporation to get back to the negotiating table. He said: “Canada Post has been very focused on its demands, not ours. The corporation wants to pay new employees 30%. It wants to reduce their benefits, weaken their job security and provide an inferior pension. It also wants to attack retiree benefits, sick leave and turn back the clock on many other contract provisions. CUPW members want a collective agreement that recognizes our work is behind the increases in profits and productivity. They want management to share, instead of attacking our wages, rights and working conditions.”

And finally…

Only a few weeks remain until the World Mail & Express Europe Conference kicks-off in Brussels. Click here to see why you should be heading to Belgium.

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