“Forward ever, backward never: onwards with Breaking Through”

11th May 2020                                                                                                                                    CWU Research

UNI Post & Logistics virtual discussion on “The challenges of Last-Mile Delivery for trade unions”, 7th May 2020

Note of meeting

Key Messages
·         Letter volume decline and increased parcel competition in the last mile have been accelerated by the coronavirus pandemic.

·         We must look to defend the postal USO and to develop new services in the last mile.

·         Postal operators could provide more financial services, social services and community services.  They could deliver more medicines and groceries and check in on the elderly and vulnerable. 

·         Parcels, letters and fliers should be delivered together to maximise revenues and profit and minimise traffic and pollution.  Combining services like this brings a competitive advantage for postal operators.

·         We should look at whether the criteria for USO letters and parcels could be expanded to bring in more products.

·         Trade unions must organise collectively across the postal sector including amongst parcel competitors to keep the playing field level for all workers no matter which union they belong to.

·         UPU is helping postal services to optimise the last mile.  It is looking at initiatives such as social services, and making services more environmentally sustainable with electric vehicles and recycling initiatives.

·         UNI has launched a European Postal Workers campaign – ‘Save Our Post’ which has five main demands centred on defending and expanding the postal USO and upholding social and environmental standards.UNI has asked affiliates to help sign the petition and support the campaign.[1]

The following is a summary of a video conference held on 7th May by UNI Post & Logistics and attended by over 70 representatives of postal unions around the world.  Presentations were given by the Universal Postal Union and trade union representatives from Brazil, Canada, New Zealand, Sweden and Senegal. 

The presentations and discussion centred on letter volume decline and increased parcel competition in the last mile - trends which have been accelerated by the coronavirus pandemic.

UNI stated that around half of employees in Universal Service Providers (USPs) are in delivery. Last mile delivery should be looked at in three key areas, all of which need urgent answers from trade unions representing the workers in the sector:

1.      The development of delivery and its organisation within the universal service provider;
2.      Prospects for developing new services to be covered by postal workers active in last-mile delivery; and
3.      The evolution of competition.

Jens Saverstam fromSeko in Sweden chaired the meeting.  He gave apologies from Dave Ward (CWU GS and UNI Post & Logistics President) and a message from Dave to say that discussions were ongoing with Royal Mail following a breakthroughin whichthe company had pulled back from executive action on reducing the UK postal USO.  This is a good result for the CWU.

Christy HoffmanUNI General Secretary said it is a very difficult time for all fighting to protect the safety of our postal members.  There is Covid-19 in virtually every country and there is an economic crisis looming.  All the postal trends already in play before Covid-19 have accelerated so we need to be dealing with the crisis in the short term but thinking about the long term outcome for workers and how we can protect them.

The last mile is crowded a) because there are a lot of packages and b) with several different employment models including the gig economy operators, the express parcel operators and the main postal operators.

It’s unwelcome and damaging to have so many operators delivering to the same areas every day.  We need to consider how we shape last mile delivery so that we create a better model for postal services with good quality employment and a green economy.

Cornelia Berger(Head of UNI Post & Logistics)said that UNI had carried out an online thought exchange amongst affiliates.   They asked for ideas on the question:

What is the most effective solution unions can fight for to win the battle of the last mile delivery?

The three highest ranked thoughts in response to this were:
1.      Fight against the attack on employees.  Competitors will accelerate the use of platforms to recruit delivery workers with entrepreneur status.
2.      The last kilometre is equal access to the postal service for all citizens, regardless of who they are, anywhere in the country.
3.      Delivering letters and parcels together can provide a significant cost advantage over companies that only deliver parcels.Pure parcel delivery is only carried out in the large metropolitan areas. The combined delivery of Deutsche Post AG is an advantage in competition.

Cornelia said that we must lobby to defend the USO and it is important that we focus on:
·         Maintaining and extending the USO
·         Combined letter and parcel delivery
·         Greening the post/making it more environmentally responsible
·         Organising workers in the postal competitors

Susan Alexander, UPU
The UPU (Universal Postal Union) is a specialised agency of the United Nations that coordinates postal policies among member nations.  It has 192 member countries.  It is the second oldest international inter-governmental organisation, founded in Bern in 1874.  It has its HQ in Bern in Switzerland and its location helps it to work closely with UNI. 

UPU plays a role in:
·         Regulating worldwide traffic of international mail
·         Postal technical standards
·         Postal quality of service standards
·         Maintaining a system for compensating countries known as terminal dues
·         Promoting development of modern products and services
·         Represents all postal sector players
·         UPU and UNI have a new cooperation agreement since 2018

Aspects of the last mile
·         UPU helps member countries to optimise the last mile
·         UPU works on supporting a sustainability agenda

UPU social services project
·         UPUaims to review social services currently provided
·         Identify best practices
·         Promote new social services

Postal social services can help to:
·         Directly improve people’s wellbeing
·         Generate direct and indirect revenue

Environmental objectives
UPU aims to encourage member countries to take action on a green agenda.  This includes: Recycling, eco driving, electric vehicles, solar energy production.

About postal social and financial services during Covid-19[2]
UPU has created a page on its website which aims to provide a single location for collecting examples of social and financial services that have been initiated and/or expanded by governments and designated operators in response to the pandemic. In the spirit of solidarity, efficiency and collaboration, the UPU is seeking:

  • Examples of postal social and financial service responses to COVID-19
  • Frameworks on rapid implementation of new services or expansion of existing ones
  • Details of new governmental initiatives to facilitate access to social and financial services through the postal network

Postal responses to this outbreak are being identified via online articles and through direct contact with UPU member countries. Links to these examples have been published as sub-pages for social services[3] and financial services.[4]

Future vision
·         We are going to see increased growth in ecommerce and financial services in future.
·         The postal sector mustadapt the universal service in response to the changes we’re seeing.
·         Postal services should introduce more government and social services.
·         Government policy will be of crucial importance in this.

UPU/UNI studies taking place in 2020
·         Impact of digitization on the postal sector
·         Impact on employees

Questions on UPU presentation
Stephane from France commented that:

We are going to be looking at decarbonising especially in big cities.  We should coordinate what we do on this and we should have these discussions at a European and Global level.
But it will be difficult to introduce the same standards everywhere given that some countries are highly developed and others are not.  Social standards won’t be the same throughout the world.

Susan (UPU) – We believe there will be a new normal.  Many social services we see to deliver medicines and other things to the elderly and vulnerable people were already in place before the pandemic began.  We know that some of them will be less useful when we go back to normal, but many will continue to be useful and will increase.  A lot of this will need to be dealt with at government level.

Services should be based on the needs of each individual country but the UPU is there to help countries share best practices and improve standards worldwide.

Cornelia – it is important to explore the potential for postal services to provide more financial services, social services, giving post more of a community and social role, and not just the transportation of goods.  We need to think about developing a new identity and a new idea of what the post could be.

UNI is expecting to start a working group on environmental standards and we have sent out a survey to affiliates on this.  We want to hold a discussion on what a green post would look like and how can we operate the postal service in a carbon neutral society.

Standards may not be the same between countries, but there must be minimum standards within each country to avoid social dumping (a race to the bottom on pay and conditions).

Ronaldo Leite – Brasil (Findect)
Ronaldo covered the challenges facing postal workers in Brazil in the private sector (as opposed to the state sector).
There has been nearly an 8% drop in postal traffic in 2018 compared with 2017.
We’ve lost 20% of jobs over the last 7 years (26,000) jobs in the postal sector.
There are 36 unions in the postal sector.
We want to organise and push for collective agreements in new areas.
We are trying to speak with other trade unions for a coordinated approach to organising postal workers in the private sector.

Jan from Canada

Developing delivery
Jan talked about the best ways to maintain and innovate in last mile delivery.  She said that the innovation challenge is immense.  We have to be clear about this.  We can’t shy away from letting our members know how hard it’s going to be.

We should mix parcels, letters and fliers together tomaximise revenues and minimise traffic and pollution, and maintain profit.  This gives us an advantage against other players that can’t deliver other products to the last mile.

Developing new services
Jan said we also need to expand on this cocktail/mix.  We should collect from residential consumers and we should deliver groceries (postal workers can do this in a more timely way).  We should offer social services such as ‘elder check in’ like they do in France.  This may not make a lot of money but will help to raise the profile of the post as a public service with a diverse range of services.

Maintain last mile delivery
Employers are attempting to come into the market and cut prices.  Amazon is just one example.  This will be a big challenge for established operators and workers there.  We need to be seriously asking how the lines of the USO could be expanded in order to sustain it.
We need to speak to other trade unions to organise collectively to keep the playing field level for all workers no matter which union we belong to.

Could the limits of a USO letter in terms of size and weight be expanded to bring in more products.

We need to have this discussion to avoid a race to the bottom on employment standards and quality of service in postal services.

We’ve been making representations to governments to protect the USO.  For example we’re rejecting any move to 5 day delivery.  We have a Covid plan but we also have a post Covid plan to expand services beyond the crisis.

Joe Gallagher – New Zealand
Predictions are that postal service will see two years’ worth of volume decline as a result of the current crisis.  People are cancelling magazine orders for example, but there has been an incredible rise in parcels.
There are huge challenges in moving to a parcels company, but we do have electric vehicles that can deliver parcels and mail. 
We now have a postal system with three day delivery (effectively every second day delivery).  We are trying to say to the postal service that we need to work together towards being a postal and logistics service with mail as a secondary function.  We are focusing on maintaining decent full time jobs and a just transition as the postal service changes.
New Zealand has had a low death rate from coronavirus and it looks like we will come out of lockdown next week and hopefully begin the economic recovery but we don’t know what the future holds.
Jens Saverstam – Seko - Sweden  - UNI Europa Campaign

Jens gave a short presentation on UNI’s campaign around securing the future of postal services ahead of the introduction of a4thEuropean Postal Directive.

UNI has launched a European Postal Workers campaign – Save Our Post.

The campaign has five main demands
1. Invest in the future of post
2. Build on the existing USO to reflect parcel growth
3. Include social and environmental standards in minimum standards
4. Guarantee a sustainable financing of the USO
5. Uphold minimum USO requirements

UNI have called on affiliates to help sign the petition and to communicate our demands and share our campaign by using the hashtag #SaveOurPost and the attached logo.
See (https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/saveourpost/) 
Also see the campaign landing page (http://www.uni-europa.org/2020/04/20/save-our-post/)  for more detail.
There is also a button on the homepage (http://www.uni-europa.org/ third down on the right hand side).
We also would ask your to communicate our demands and share our campaign by using the hashtag #SaveOurPost and the attached logo.

Jens Saverstam – Presentation on Sweden last mile
·         Mail volumes decreasing, ecommerce increasing, lots of competition
·         Covid-19 has not affected trends
·         Food and pharmaceutical delivery has increased a lot during covid-19
·         Postal workers considered a key service during covid-19
·         Last mile – the unions have a sectorial bargaining agreement
·         Important to organise all companies including in the gig economy.  This has happened in Sweden with Seko and other trade unions.
·         We now have all companies organized in the mail sector and the parcel sector. Some with us (seko) and some with other unions

Future for the last mile
·         5 day delivery service today
·         We have an agreement to protect secure jobs in the postal service

IbrahimaSarr – Senegal
·         Challenge in Africa us huge in terms of organisation and how postal operators function.
·         In many places we don’t have clear addresses or reliable post codes so the final mile can be very difficult for delivery workers.
·         Governments and local authorities must pick up this challenge so that mail can be delivered much more effectively.
·         We also need to have the necessary logistics in place to provide the service.
·         We need regulation in place to control competition.  We are seeing a lot of start-ups in the sector because it is not well regulated.
·         We have a high level of organisation.  We have worked to improve terms and conditions of employment for DHL members.

Irena Liepina – Latvia

·         I welcome the emphasis on food delivery and pharmaceuticals which is very important in Latvia
·         Good news from Latvia that we have confirmed an improvement in wages for postal workers.
·         We have a new sector which is food delivery, some for restaurants and hotels.  This covers around 26,000 workers.  We have a new general collective agreement in this sector will hopefully enter into force soon.

Ubine – FentectBrasil
Postal workers and retail workers are doing a lot of hard work at the moment during this crisis.  There is growth in ecommerce but far fewer letters and restructuring is now underway.
We are seeing much more happening in the last mile.  This is difficult as we have a lot of social deregulation and employment deregulation.  The government is denying there is a coronavirus crisis.
We can’t have a competitive price as we have to deliver to outlying areas.  Our competitors can deliver where they like and can pay workers what they like.  They are skewing the market – this is not a level playing field.
Those in the most precarious position will be exploited and this is a major concern.
There will be further casualization of labour.

Jose Oliveira - Portugal
We face a big problem in Portugal.  We are being told that if we don’t accept changes there will be job losses.

Cornelia – summing up:
It has been useful to hear experiences from other countries and this helps us to develop a UNI position.

We have decided to continue this format and to have one more session before the summer break in June.  We have not decided on the topic so feel free to make a suggestion.

UNI now has a twitter account.