The Global Attack on Postal Workers

Employing over 115,000 Royal Mail workers, Royal Mail is currently undertaking a fundamental restructuring of its core business. It aims to concentrate on the lucrative parcel market and ditch its responsibility for letter delivery. It would appear to be deliberately trashing this side of the business to sell it to any private equity firm greedy enough to buy it. The 500-year-old company has also changed its name to International Distributions Services plc.

To undertake this restructuring, it is carrying out a vicious attack on postal workers’ pay and conditions that is unprecedented in this industry in modern times. Along with other wholesale changes, it demands new delivery schedules to compete with parcel delivery services such as Amazon, which employs a super-exploited gig workforce. Royal Mail wants delivery rounds to start two hours later each day, from 9 am, with the last post at 7 pm or later. It wants compulsory Sunday work. If successful, it will amount to the Amazonisation of the postal service.

Worldwide postal networks are also launching systematic and widescale privatisation of their core businesses. Two related developments are driving this privatisation process or Post Office reform. Firstly, the exponential growth of electronic mail has placed massive demands on postal services worldwide to cut costs and improve efficiency to remain competitive. Computers now generate over 80 per cent of all correspondence sent.

Secondly, the globalisation of trade and industry facilitated by these same technological developments has torn the ground from under the postal service as a nationally based venture. Whereas the post Office once enjoyed monopoly status as a domestic carrier, today, it is forced to compete at home and abroad against its international rivals.

Postal companies around the world are, in the words of a UNI Global Report adopting “solutions aimed at optimising deliveries, such as the outsourcing of delivery services, the prior quantification of tasks using software tools (geo-routing13), the introduction of alternate day delivery, the questioning of the “tenure” of delivery rounds, the non-physical delivery of registered mail, the extension of delivery rounds and, for some operators, the total or partial integration of parcels and letters into one delivery stream. Some postal and parcel operators are also starting to introduce new low-cost (“uberized”) flexible delivery models such as crowdsourcing which allows deliveries to be organised locally or even nationally (for the moment, mainly in the US, the UK and Belgium”.

Given the globalised nature of the postal industry, it is not surprising that the attacks on British postal workers are mirrored worldwide. Across the channel, postal workers in France have come under sustained attacks from La Poste. Like postal workers around the globe, French postal workers joined their fellow workers during the Covid 19 pandemic playing an ever more “essential” role as they deliver food, medications, money, communications, and much more to millions of homes. Like their global counterparts, French postal workers have been treated as if their lives have no value, and thousands of postal workers were infected with many deaths. Since 2012 there have been 19 suicides or attempted suicides of postal workers.

La Poste is in many ways ahead of its European competitors in undertaking a massive restructuring of its business model to compete with its international rivals. It was one of the first European postal services to change the start times of its postal workers from 6 am to 8 am to compete with its rivals in the lucrative parcels business. This has ended the “job and finish” principle, something Royal Mail in the UK is keen to duplicate.

To offset the decline in Letters, La Poste has, According to a UNI Global Union report, now has postal workers doing “new services such as “Watch over my parents”, home delivery of errands, meals or medicines, technical or administrative help (help with tax return forms, installation of TV decoders).[1] Most drivers at La Poste’s subsidiary DPD are self-employed, and La Poste has shed over 70,000 of its postal workers.

“La Poste has considerably expanded its European express delivery network through investments in new technologies and a series of external acquisitions (Seur, Exapaq, Pickup Services Siodemka, among others). DPD is now the second-largest operator in Europe behind Deutsche Post DHL, with a market share estimated at 12.9% (with leading positions in several European markets such as Germany, the UK, France, Poland and Portugal). La Poste is also investing outside Europe (Belarus, Kazakhstan, Turkey, China and Africa, and South and North America), intending to become a major player in the global e-commerce supply chain. About a quarter of La Poste turnover is already realised on foreign markets.”[2]

The German Postal Service was privatised in 1989. It is hell-bent on cutting costs, including introducing low-paid contracts similar to its private business rivals, to furnish the German financial elite with increased dividends and facilitate its business expansion into foreign markets.

In Belgium, Bpost has already attempted the Uberisation of its core business. According to the Uni Global Study, “In 2016, Bpost launched Bringr, an innovative, collaborative platform app allowing smartphone users to find a driver for delivering goods. According to the company, Bringr aims to complement Bpost’s existing product range with a service that enables users to find a driver to pick up goods at point A and deliver them to point B. First developed in the USA and the uK, this crowdsourced delivery model, which works on the same principle as popular driving (Uber) or grocery or food delivery services (Uber Eats, Deliveroo), are becoming increasingly popular among delivery companies as it satisfies consumers’ growing demands for faster online deliveries while at the same time decreasing the cost of last-mile delivery by lowering labour and other fixed expenses.[3] Over 10% of its workforce is agency workers. In Poland, like its western counterparts, the Polish postal services face fierce competition from its rivals. Many competitors have a low-cost business method with low fixed costs and cheap labour. In Sweden, over 29,000 jobs have been lost due to the reorganisation of the Swedish postal network. Posten AB closed all post offices by 2002 and replaced them with so-called business centres and postal contact points located in grocery stores, filling stations, kiosks etc.

Like many postal workers around the world, postal workers in Sweden were fearful of the new changes, according to the Uni Global report: “Working conditions have also suffered. A SECO study team visited 800 Swedish Post and CityMail workplaces. These visits confirmed problems of stress and heavy workloads. According to the study, “the most distressing observation was the anxiety about the future expressed by most employees. This situation has increased in long-term absence, the increased incidence of occupational illness and high employee turnover”.

In New Zealand, in 1998, the Postal Services Act ended the statutory monopoly of New Zealand Post (NZ Post) to carry letters, opening the postal market to full competition. NZ Post, to reduce cost {Royal Mail in the UK is seeking to do the same} is using self-employed workers for certain tasks. Many other duties are now being outsourced to companies with low wages and poor working conditions. This has led to over 5000 job losses since 2013. Australia Post The Australian government is conducting a restructuring of Australia Post that threatens 2,000 jobs. Many workers have been punished for speaking out on COVID-19 conditions

In Canada, Casual labour is rife at Canada Post, with 32 per cent of staff part-time, and the lack of full-time jobs has led to an escalation of casual work. An article on reports, “Postal workers endure demanding and dangerous working conditions, including forced overtime and an accident rate that is more than five times the norm in federally regulated industries. Canada Post is using technological change to increase postal workers’ workloads further while slashing jobs. Backed by the Conservative government’s 2011 back-to-work law, it slashed pension benefits and expanded multi-tier employment.”[4]

In the United States, President Joe Biden recently signed the Postal Service Reform Act of 2022, which will see the health care benefits of US postal workers slashed. The APWU and the other postal unions have regularly aided and abetted management attacks of wages and conditions and have fully supported the cuts in health care costs.

Brazil is in the final stages of privatising the state-owned postal office Correios, after a nationwide 35-day strike was sabotaged by the postal unions in September. In a previous strike in In 2014, Postal Union workers came out of strike over the transfer of the post’s healthcare system to a new management agency. In Brazil, postal workers’ wages and salaries are among the lowest in Brazilian state-owned companies.

In the United Kingdom, With the average wage of a Royal Mail Letters Operational Grade postal worker set at a measly £22,589, nearly £5000 below the national wage, postal workers have for the last decade or so been in a constant and fierce battle to defend and improve their pay and workers conditions. As was outlined at the beginning of this article, they face an employer who is hell-bent on destroying their hard-fought pay and benefits. The result of two decades of Royal Mail restructuring and then privatisation in 2013 has reduced jobs by 44,000. With the direct collaboration of the CWU, the company has seen the wholesale looting of the pension and the establishment of a new two-tier pension that will see new starters on a worse pension than their fellow workers. It has replaced its defined benefit pension scheme with a sub-standard arrangement. Postal workers have launched serious strikes to defend their pay and working conditions. The Communication Workers Union {CWU} has utilised the strikes as a bargaining counter to force Royal Mail to the negotiating table.

Like their counterparts around the globe, the CWU, far from defending postal workers from Royal Mail’s rapacious attacks, have aided and abetted this process. As Eric London writes, “The trade unions, controlled by massive bureaucracies that are entirely integrated into the structures of the state and finance capital, serve as instruments of imperialism, and are working in every country with the corporations and capitalist parties to suppress this growing movement and to isolate the most militant struggles. The task that directly confronts the working class is to smash the bureaucratic dictatorship and transfer power to the rank and file.[5]

The International Workers Alliance of Rank-and-File Committees (IWA-RFC), founded by the International Committee of the Fourth International in May 2021,  calls on all postal workers to break from their union leader and set up their organisations independent of the union bureaucracy in order to coordinate and draw together all the disparate struggles of the international working class into one unified world movement. Above all, what is needed is the building of a socialist leadership to direct the emerging struggles in the direction of a challenge to the capitalist system and imperialist war.


1.   Correspondence on the privatisation of Britain’s postal service-24 August 2002-

2.   The Economic And Social Consequences of Postal Services Liberalisation – Uni Global study

3.   Canada Post workers need a socialist strategy to defy and defeat Liberals’ back-to-work law-


1.   Masters of the Post: The Authorised History of the Royal Mail Hardcover – 3 Nov. 2011by Duncan Campbell-Smith 

2.   LONDON POSTAL WORKERS A TRADE UNION HISTORY 1839–2000 Kindle Edition-by Norman Candy

3.   Scratching the Surface: Posties, Privatisation and Strikes in the Royal Mail Paperback – 29 Aug. 2014 -by Phil ChadwickThe Meaning of Militancy?: Postal Workers and Industrial Relations (Routledge Revivals) Hardcover – 27 Oct. 2017-by Gregor

[1] The Economic And Social Consequences of Postal Services Liberalisation – Uni Global study

[2] The Economic And Social Consequences of Postal Services Liberalisation – Uni Global study

[3] THE Economic And Social Consequences of Postal Services Liberalisation – Uni Global study-

[4] Canada Post workers need socialist strategy to defy and defeat Liberals’ back-to-work law-

[5] The global strike wave and the crisis of revolutionary leadership-

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