Undelivered international mail piling up at Uruguay airport

Strike action at Uruguayan Post that has been disrupting international mail flows since early last month has now left millions of items piling up at an airport facility. The Association of Postal Officials of Uruguay (AFPU) started industrial action on 10 July, leading to the interruption of processing activity for inbound international mail, parcels and express items via Uruguayan Post.

Media outlets within Uruguay have said 50 tonnes of mail has now built up during the strike action at the Carrasco International Airport in Montevideo.

From Friday, the union also brought a halt to the processing of outbound international mail.

The strike is not affecting domestic mail services in Uruguay.

Reform bill

Mail customers have been shown pictures showing their mail is being safely stored during the strikes

The industrial action is linked to the proposed Postal Services Act, a reform bill expected to be passed by the Uruguay Parliament later this year that will set out new standards for the universal postal service while also aiming to wean Uruguayan Post off government financial assistance.

By 2020, the Act would require the market as a whole to fund the universal postal service, rather than the government, with private sector operators providing contributions.

The AFPU is demanding that the postal law set a tax on mail correspondence that would go towards funding the universal service.

The union is calling for a 10% obligation on private mail companies to pay into a universal service fund to support Uruguayan Post, along with the promise of a reserved area of the market, for letters under 150g in weight, as a protected monopoly for the Post.

On the back of such a fund and the restructuring of Uruguayan Post, the union wants an increase in staffing levels and a $70 USD pay rise for each worker.

Uruguayan Post has a share of about 46% in the country’s postal market, with annual volume growth around 14% in 2011 compared to the year before.

Among the forthcoming reforms, the Post is hoping to move towards more of a hybrid mail system, to make use of electronic communications to speed up message delivery.

Mail customer protest

Friday (10th August) saw a protest by mail customers at the Uruguayan Post headquarters, with the group stating that ordinary Uruguayans cannot afford premium delivery services to send out international mail through companies like FedEx or DHL.

Uruguayan Post said its board agreed to meet with the group of customers concerned about the failed delivery of their international mail to discuss the conditions in which items are being stored.

The company also released pictures showing the conditions of stored mail.

The customer group, which claims 700 members, said in a statement to the press that they were not against the causes of the strike, but the specific action the strike was taking in holding up international mail.

The group said it was considering taking legal action against the union and union officials involved, and is also planning hunger strikes.

Postal operators in the rest of the world have been warning their customers that they cannot accept outgoing mail bound for Uruguay. Items being sent to Uruguay are being considered as undeliverable, until services in the South American country resume.

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