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STUC Congress 2024 The future of the postal service is under serious threat

Damaging changes are being pushed through by Royal Mail in Scotland that will see worsened services and delays to delivery times, explains CRAIG ANDERSON

ALMOST all delegates arriving at this week’s STUC Congress in Dundee this week will have had their credentials delivered by CWU members who work in Scotland’s postal service. While the STUC’s longevity is notable in reaching this, its 127th Congress, it is nonetheless dwarfed in comparison to the institution that is the UK’s postal service, which has been operating for over 500 years.

The Royal Mail, the backbone of Britain’s postal service, plays a vital role in Scotland, ensuring the timely delivery of letters, parcels, banners, leaflets, ballots, journals, and copies of esteemed (and not so esteemed) newspapers, as well as other essential services, especially in our remote rural areas. However, despite its illustrious history, the future of this vital service is under serious threat. 

Readers may be aware that earlier this year, Ofcom published a report into the future of the universal service obligation (USO), citing declining letter volumes and diminishing user needs as motivation for proposing various cuts to the service, most of which could severely damage postal services.

Both the Communication Workers Union (CWU) and Royal Mail have published responses to this consultation, with the CWU, representing over 110,000 postal workers across the UK, calling for a comprehensive universal service that aligns the needs of the customer, the workforce and the business. Ofcom is considering the results of the consultation and it is expected to recommend specific proposals for reform later in the year. 

However, there are already damaging changes to the postal service happening in Scotland that are being pushed through by Royal Mail. 

The CWU is deeply concerned about the Royal Mail’s proposed “Network Window” changes, which delay postal workers’ start and finish times by up to 2.5 hours. These changes may not seem important but, make no mistake, pushing start times back will detrimentally impact delivery schedules and lead to delays in receiving mail in our remote and rural communities, where the postal service is incredibly important. 

CWU representatives have also been told by senior Royal Mail figures in Scotland that this delay may also result in redundancies in over 1,000 full-time jobs, placing even more strain on the service. 

This latest imposition is characteristic of the inept mismanagement of Royal Mail since privatisation. Despite service quality rapidly declining, costs have risen for customers (a first-class stamp now costs £1.35) and investment in the service has slumped. To make matters worse, shareholders were rewarded with excessive profits, while the company attempted to drive down workers’ pay and conditions. 

In addition to poor management of the service, Royal Mail are ignoring the needs of our most vulnerable communities. Introducing these delays will have devastating consequences for all of Scotland, but it would be most acutely felt in our remote communities in the Highlands and Islands. 

Businesses and workers in these areas depend on the postal service for everything, from receiving legal and medical correspondence to banking and other financial necessities.

For many in rural Scotland, especially the elderly or those with limited mobility, receiving mail is not just about convenience, it’s about security and connection. From pensions and social security to birthday cards — our posties are a vital lifeline that keeps people connected to the rest of the world. Removing this lifeline could exacerbate isolation and vulnerability.

The CWU has urged Royal Mail to reconsider its proposed changes. Instead of redundancies and schedule disruptions, we need investment in the service and to restore service quality. 

We also call on the Scottish and UK governments to ensure that they do all they can to ensure timely deliveries. This is not just about mail; it’s about ensuring that all corners of Scotland remain connected and have access to the essential services they rely upon.

The Royal Mail’s proposed changes are more than just delays; they represent a dismantling of a vital social infrastructure. When future delegates are preparing for the 128th STUC Congress and beyond, we want their passes and credentials to arrive safely by the trusted delivery of a well-paid postie from a properly resourced postal service.  

We also ask that all delegates at the STUC Congress stop by the CWU’s stall and help support the campaign to Save Scotland’s Postal Service.

Craig Anderson is regional secretary for Communication Workers Union in Scotland.

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