Year: 2007

24-hour general strike cripples Belgium

Most of Belgium was bought to a virtual standstill on Friday as a 24 hour general strike affected transport, schools and government services.

The BBC reports the industrial action, the first general strike in Belgium since 1993, forced the cancellation of trains, including international services such as Eurostar.
The protest was called by Belgium’s Socialist FGTB/ABVV union in protest at government plans to stop workers retiring early with full benefits.

Postal workers at sorting offices walked out on Thursday evening and airport authorities warned of possible disruption to flights.

There were also pickets and blockades at factories and ports. Antwerp, one of Europe’s largest ports, was shut for business as dockers refused to work.

Talks between the government and the unions are expected to continue over the weekend.

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Post Stamps out E-Cards for Most This Christmas, says Greetz

New research has found that 9 in 10 British people send Christmas cards and of those, 62pct still sends them by post. Furthermore, the research commissioned by new online postal greeting card service Greetz shows that over three quarters of people (77pct) actually prefers to receive real cards sent in the post.

In addition, the average person is likely to send around 37 Christmas cards a year, equating to an approximate annual spend of GBP 18.58,(1) excluding postage stamps. Greetz calculates that, with a UK average life expectancy of 79, Christmas cards alone will cost Adult Britons an average of GBP 1,133 each in their lifetime.

Interestingly, there was a disparity in the results according to the age of the respondent. For example, the over 55s were more than twice as likely to send Christmas cards of a religious nature than the 18-24 year olds. Amongst the younger group, a massive 82pct said that they usually buy modern Christmas cards depicting the likes of Father Christmas and reindeers rather than religious images.

The older age group is also the most likely group to send over 100 cards and to spend over GBP 100 on buying Christmas cards. Geographically, the Scots are the biggest British senders and spenders with 8pct responding that they would usually buy over 100 cards for the festive season.

The most popular time to send cards was about two weeks before Christmas (67pct) but as many as 13pct admitted that they leave it to the last week before Christmas or right up until Christmas Eve – before posting their cards. Again, there was a difference between the ages with the younger age groups most likely to leave it to the last minute.

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Deutsche Post CFO says minimum wage to have 'no immediate effect' on costs

Deutsche Post World Net AG’s Chief Financial Officer John Allan said a minimum wage for postal workers recently approved by Germany’s government will have ‘no immediate effect’ on the company’s cost structure.

‘We pay at least this wage level throughout the German mail services business,’ he told a company newsletter in an interview.

The upper house of Germany’s parliament yesterday approved the introduction of a minimum wage at 8.00-9.80 eur per hour for postal workers. The minimum wage is expected to hurt primarily Deutsche Post’s smaller competitors.

And commenting on government plans to liberalize the letter mail market next year, Allan affirmed Deutsche Post’s previous statements that liberalization could lower earnings before interest and taxes by 10-20 pct.

Allan also brushed off concern that a possible abolition of Deutsche Post’s exemption from German value-added tax could hurt results.

‘There is no reason for us to speculate about any consequences as there’s no evidence whatsoever that we would lose the exemption,’ he said.

Under current rules, Deutsche Post’s basic postal services are exempt from the 19 pct VAT while comparable services provided by rivals are not, even after Deutsche Post’s monopoly on delivering letters expires at the end of the year.

Deutsche Post obtained the exemption in exchange for the guarantee that it will deliver mail to every household in Germany.

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Postcomm: Compensation consultation on delay, loss and damage – second stage

Postcomm issued a consultation in November 2006 asking for views on a number of key issues in relation to the current compensation arrangements for postal packets that have been lost, damaged or delayed.

Royal Mail’s license requires it to have a “standards of service compensation scheme” for compensating users of postal services for delayed mail.

The second stage of this review has now been published, and Postcomm have provided a list of their proposals for both retail and bulk mail compensation.

The current compensation scheme for delay, as determined by Postcomm in October 2003, includes compensation arrangements for senders of mail using bulk mail services. Bulk mail customers currently receive compensation in the form of an annual rebate of a percentage of the money they have paid to Royal Mail, depending on Royal Mail’s annual performance against its quality of service targets for bulk mail.

Postcomm proposes to remove bulk mail from the compensation scheme for delay with effect from 1 April 2009. Postcomm considers that the continuation of a regulated compensation scheme for bulk mail may distort customer behaviour and act as a barrier to switching.

The closing date for this consultation is 18 February 2008.

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Swiss Post innovates with virtual counter

Switzerland’s postal authority – Swiss Post – has put a new service online to make life easier for its customers.

The aim of the virtual counter is to give internet users faster access to the services, information and products they need.

Swiss Post says that its website currently offers no fewer than 3,000 pages in German, French and Italian – 2,000 in English – and customers may not be aware of all that is on offer.

“The virtual counter was put online on Thursday and at the moment it is innovative mainly in its design and the aspect of play,” company spokeswoman Nathalie Salamin told swissinfo.

Customers in future will have a single sign-on and the number of links will be reduced from the current 110 to about 40, the aim being to make it easier to search for information.

The virtual post office counter has eight sections – transactions, travel, franking, sending, search/find, receiving, buying and communicating.

It is aimed mainly at private clients and new functions are expected to be added next year.

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The web is getting grey on top

More old people are jumping on to the Internet and the over 55 year-olds now represent nearly one in five of internet users, according to research by Nielsen Online.

Nielsen Online has released figures for the changing age make-up of the UK Internet population as well as the youngest and oldest audiences amongst the 100 most popular brands in the UK.

Over the last year (October 2006-October 2007) the share of the UK internet population made up by under 25-year-olds has decreased from 29% to 25%, while the share of over 55-year-olds has risen from 16% to 19%. At the same time, the average age of the UK internet population has risen from 35.7 to 37.9.

Unsurprisingly high street retailer Marks & Spencer has the oldest average online age at 46.5, while the site with the youngest UK online audience is online games portal Miniclip, with an average age of 28.1.

The top 10 online brands with the youngest average age include the inevitable download site – Limewire, entertainment sites – Nickleodeon, Disney, and social networking sites Bebo.

The top five online brands with the oldest average age are all familiar high-street brands, including M&S, John Lewis, and Nationwide. More surprising are the average ages for supposed “youth orientated” web sites, YouTube has an average age of 34.4, FaceBook 34.6, MSN 36.2 and blogger 38.5.

Alex Burmaster, internet analyst at Nielsen Online, “When looking at how a particular audience is composed by age, a change in share – even by just a few percentage points – actually represents quite a fundamental shift. Age compositions tend to evolve subtly over a number of years so to see such large changes in the course of just a year shows that the Internet population is undergoing a significant ageing process. It will be very interesting to see whether this trend continues over the next 12 months and, if so, whether the types of services and products offered and marketed online adapt to reflect this changing population. New online offerings and technology are usually targeted at the young, but it’s possible brands could be missing a trick if they continue down this path in the future.”

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La Poste Group: budget 2008 and ambitions 2012

La Poste Board of Directors convened the expected consolidated figures for 2007, and approved the 2008 budget, the pluriannual business plan 2008-2010, and the Group’s financial ambitions for 2012.

In 2007, La Poste should achieve the target operating margin – operating profit over revenues – set for the financial year at 5.8pct , as against 4.6pct in 2006 (IFRS pro forma). It should also meet its net profit target of EUR 850 million. La Poste should also make internal investments of around EUR 1.2 billion in 2007, marginally higher than the EUR 1,136 million of 2006, continuing the drive to modernisation in each of its divisions. External growth operations are directly dependent on market opportunities and are likely to be more moderate in 2007 (EUR 110 million as against EUR 550 million in 2006, essentially involving the international build-up of the Express business.

In 2008, turnover is forecast to rise by 2.9 pct excluding changes in provisions for épargne logement (Home Ownership Savings Plans and Accounts). Mail business revenues should grow by around 1pct , including, as in previous years, slight erosion in volume. The Parcels and Express division should achieve organic growth of more than 6pct. Finally La Banque Postale expects an increase in net banking income of around 4pct.

La Poste Group will implement a programme of internal capital expenditure and investment worth EUR 1.3 billion in 2008. As in 2007, the Mail Quality Project will be implemented at a fast pace, involving the start up of 8 new Industrial Mail Centers. Furthermore, La Poste expects in 2008 to renovate several hundred post offices, having upgraded some 1,900 such in the last thirty months.

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Johnny Thijs Re-Elected as CEO Belgian Post

Belgian Post CEO Johnny Thijs has been re-elected for another six years by the Belgian government. The 55-year-old was first appointed head of the postal company for six years at the beginning of 2002. His mandate has now been extended for the same period of time, Belgian Post announced. Welcoming the re-appointment, Martine Durez, chairwoman of Belgian Post supervisory board, commented: “Under the leadership of Johnny Thijs, La Poste has become financially stable and improved its efficiency and customer service quality in the last few years. In close collaboration with the Management Board and in accord with staff representatives, he has successfully completed in-house change projects. I am convinced that Johnny Thijs will continue to accomplish this mission with success in order to prepare La Poste for postal liberalisation in 2011.”

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