Postmen threaten to ditch half of their deliveries in bid to protect Royal Mail from 'unfair' competitionStrike could happen in New Year and all non-Royal Mail post would just be ignoredUnions say commercial competitors are costing jobs and don't have to meet same standards of service or payRoyal Mail has been criticised for putting up price of stamps
Its delivery arm made a profit for the first time in four years this year
07:51 GMT, 5 December 2012
Postmen are threatening to deliver only half the mail, a militant union warned last night.
Thousands of vital letters such as energy bills and bank statements would fail to reach customers if the boycott went ahead – causing chaos for households and businesses.
Royal Mail has lost business to the likes of TNT Post and UK Mail over the past seven years. Currently, half of all letters are handled by a rival company, with Royal Mail responsible for only the final mile of the delivery.
Strike: Royal Mail workers may ignore post sent via their 'unfair' competitors who have caused job losses, price rises and fewer services
The Communication Workers’ Union said
yesterday it will ballot its 200,000 members in the New Year about
whether to boycott letters which have been handled by a rival firm.
The ban would affect post from some of
the country’s biggest businesses. Thames Water, BT, E.On, Sky,
Barclays, Npower, O2 and Talk Talk are among those who use Royal Mail’s
rivals to handle all or some of their letters.
Government departments such as HM Revenue and Customs use TNT.
CWU members – the majority of whom
work for Royal Mail – will be asked a single question about whether they
are prepared to boycott the delivery of mail handled by a rival.
Since 2005, Royal Mail has rapidly
lost its key business customers, according to data published last month
by postal regulator Ofcom. Just 5.2 per cent of all letters were handled
by a rival in 2005. Last year, the figure hit 44 per cent and Royal
Mail says it is now dangerously close to 50 per cent.
This year, TNT Post expects to handle
3.8billion letters and UK Mail expects to handle 3billion. They pick up
letters from their business customers, sort them, distribute them around
the UK and then pay Royal Mail to put them through the letterbox, known
as the ‘final mile’.
Boycott: Post sent via competitors is still taken the 'final mile' by postmen but this responsibility will be ignored if the strike goes ahead
Dave Ward, CWU deputy general
secretary, said: ‘What we are seeing is private companies being able to
do what they want, with little concern for how it affects postal
services in the round.’
Concerns: Royal Mail says all post must be delivered but admitted they are also worried by the rise cherry-picking competitors
The union fears the impact on postal
services could be ‘catastrophic’ if the problem is not dealt with, and
leaves the crucial ‘universal service obligation (USO)’ under threat.
The USO is the promise that Royal Mail will pick up and deliver letters
six days a week for a uniform price anywhere in Britain.
TNT Post poses an even bigger threat
to Royal Mail because it began a trial of its own postal service in West
London in April, in which it no longer uses Royal Mail postmen.
About 300,000 families and businesses
in areas such as Ealing, Hammersmith and Victoria get some of their mail
delivered by TNT’s 600 postmen dressed in their distinctive orange
Unlike Royal Mail postmen, they have
no obligation to meet targets set down by the regulator, such as the
rule which says Royal Mail must aim to deliver 93 per cent of
first-class mail the next day.
TNT Post wants to do more trials in
cities across the UK, which poses a major problem for Royal Mail,
because it will be left with the loss-making routes which no private
Royal Mail has already sharply hiked
its stamp prices in a bid to make more money. A first-class stamp jumped
from 46p to 60p in April, and could rise again at any time.
A Royal Mail spokesman said: ‘We are concerned about the impact of unfettered direct delivery competition.
‘Currently, competitors are allowed to
“cherry-pick” higher density, more profitable routes in urban areas and
ignore lower density rural areas where delivery is more costly.’
UK Mail chief executive Guy Buswell said TNT had ‘really upset the apple cart’ with its West London delivery trial.
A TNT Post spokesman said: ‘We disagree with the comments made in relation to TNT Post in this matter.’