UNI Europa Post & Logistics and its members responded to the open consultation on the evaluation report of the Postal Services Directive launched by the European Commission. The aim of the consultation is to gather views on whether the Postal Services Directive has achieved its objectives and remains relevant in the current context. The results of the public consultation will factor into the evaluation report that will assess, in the first place, whether the Directive still fits the purpose for which it was adopted in 1997 and, second, whether new policy objectives might need to be considered in the future.
UNI Europa Post & Logistics and its affiliated postal trade unions responded to the open consultation with a joint position (also available in German, Spanish, French and Italian). Postal workers and their trade unions joined forces and agreed several policy priorities for the postal sector as well as what postal services we want to see in the future. During the pandemic, postal services have proven their importance and worth to the public and enabled our economies and societies to keep going. This was only made possible by the dedication and work of postal workers. The pandemic has shown the urgent need to redefine and expand the universal service obligation.
- Invest in the future of post
We call on legislators to provide incentives to strengthen the postal networks and to find innovative products. We call for the maintenance and enhancement of the scope and quality of universal postal networks. We call on legislators to enable the reorganisation and modernisation of the postal networks in a democratic manner. In many parts of Europe, notably rural areas, postal services are the only means of communication and social inclusion. We call on the legislators to uphold the crucial role of posts in promoting social and territorial cohesion.
- Build on the existing Universal Service Obligation (USO) to reflect parcel growth
Without challenging the importance of letters, witnessing the continued growth of e-Commerce, parcels are of crucial importance for national economies and are a way to support SMEs’ growth in the regions. The pandemic has exacerbated this trend. We call on the legislators to enact a full citizen right to regular and affordable parcel delivery at uniform prices in a national territory, to send and receive parcels. For this we demand strong market regulation that guarantees good working conditions, decent wages, and high quality of service.
- Include social and environmental standards in minimum standards
All companies providing services under the Universal Service Obligation (USO) must report to the National Regulatory Authorities (NRAs). The NRAs should uphold and safeguard social and environmental standards. The NRAs need to enforce corrective mechanisms in case of non-respect of established standards and national legislation. The new postal regulatory framework must impede instances of unfair competition and social dumping by upholding fair practices in terms of employment conditions, environmental performance, and quality of service.
- Guarantee a sustainable financing of the USO
The new regulatory framework must guarantee the sustainable financing of the USO in a shrinking market without profit orientation. We call on the legislators to review the current system of postal compensatory funds as it does not function properly. All market players involved in the USO must contribute to its financing whilst guaranteeing the high quality of service at uniform affordable prices. Companies must not be able to cherry-pick only profitable areas. They should not be authorised to operate if they practice social dumping in a national market through instances of unfair competition.
- Uphold minimum USO requirements
Current definitions of the USO in terms of quality, affordability, accessibility, delivery time and frequency standards must be upheld and/or maintained as defined in each national context. Delivery has a price. Free delivery advertisements create market distortions and put pressure on prices. Citizens should be able to make an informed choice between operators in a free market. Market liberalisation needs to be accompanied by social cohesion measures that guarantee decent wages and working conditions for all market players involved in the postal supply chain.
We call for a stop to further liberalisation and deregulation of postal services in the EU.
Since 2008 with the implementation of the third postal directive, postal companies in the EU operate in a fully liberalised postal market. At the time, the European Commission and the Member States argued that liberalisation would bring about higher quality, greater efficiency and better customer-orientation; lower prices; more and better jobs. This has not come to pass. Postal liberalisation has failed the postal workers, their trade unions, and ultimately the citizens which are also the consumers.
They had promised increased quality, more efficiency and better user-orientation. In reality, most companies have cut costs by downsizing or outsourcing the postal network. Post offices have been transformed into access points at petrol stations or supermarkets with limited services. The public spends more time and travels farther to access postal services as there are fewer letter boxes and parcel pick-up points. New apps and electronic services force people to use electronic stamps and to franchise and pre-sort their mail. Crowd-sourced delivery models (Uber model) require people to organise their own platform-based parcel deliveries, or even to deliver the parcels themselves.
To maintain a postal service as a service of general economic interest which ensures social and territorial cohesion and enables all citizens to communicate with one another, we need to defend the existing service and lobby for a paradigm shift.
Liberalisation has not brought about higher quality. It has meant drops in employment and a grave deterioration of working conditions. It has put at risk the sustainable financing of the USO and hence the mission of postal services. In revising the European postal regulatory framework, UNI Europa Post & Logistics’ trade unions call for the enactment of a fully-fledged citizen right to consume postal products based on an informed choice between operators.
The choice becomes informed if all market players abide by similar legal and regulatory standards, which is currently not the case. The aim is to uphold the mission of services of general economic interest to benefit the citizens and the consumers. To achieve this, market operators must compete within a regulatory level-playing field that abides by social and environmental standards and does not engage in a race-to-the-bottom in terms of wages, working conditions and profit-seeking.