Royal Mail service review ‘predetermined’, union leader claims

Business

A review of Royal Mail’s letter delivery obligations that could see Saturday post scrapped is “predetermined”, according to an industry union leader.

Communication Workers’ Union (CWU) general secretary Dave Ward was reacting to a story by Sky News on Saturday that regulator Ofcom was to launch a consultation on options for reforming the Universal Service Obligation (USO).

Loss-making Royal Mail has long complained that postal deliveries six days a week are not financially viable due to a collapse in letter volumes.

The USO was last looked at more than a decade ago.

Sources told Sky’s City editor Mark Kleinman that the Ofcom document, expected on Wednesday, would not contain conclusions or firm recommendations but would instead set out ideas for preserving the universal postal service in a sustainable form.

But the CWU said it feared the USO potentially being obliterated, perhaps to just three days a week.

It claimed that such a move would place tens of thousands of jobs at risk among frontline postal workers as the company continues to prioritise more lucrative parcels business.

Mr Ward, in his interview with Sky News on Monday morning, said: “I don’t think any postal worker would be blind for the need for change but… we think the whole of Ofcom’s approach is a complete sham.

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Royal Mail review a ‘complete sham’

“It’s about getting to a predetermined outcome and we’re not going to sit back and allow Ofcom, Royal Mail, the government, to destroy what is an important public service which customers still support and you can actually still expand upon with new products and services.”

The issue threatens to reignite hostilities between the union and IDS-owned Royal Mail.

A series of strikes ahead of Christmas 2022 saw relations between the pair descend to a new low, with Royal Mail’s 112,000 workers later accepting a new pay settlement in return for reforms including regular Sunday working.

The dispute lasted more than a year.

Royal Mail, which said it was losing £1m a day during the turbulent period for industrial relations, saw a marked recovery in operational performance and trading over the crucial Christmas period, according to IDS.

But its chief executive, Martin Seidenberg, said at the time of the trading update: “With Ofcom due to publish options for the future of the Universal Service imminently, now is the time for urgent action.

“We are doing all we can to transform, but it is simply not sustainable to maintain a delivery network built for 20 billion letters when we are now only delivering seven billion.”

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