26 Mar 2024

Postie unions decry 'race to the bottom' as job losses loom

2:53 pm on 26 March 2024
An unidentified NZ Post worker is delivering two parcels onto a doorstep.

The state-owned enterprise planned to combine its mail and parcel networks, currently delivered separately by posties and couriers. Photo: NZ Post

Posties are looking to take legal action as New Zealand Post plans to cut hundreds of jobs over the next five years.

Chief executive David Walsh said up to about 750 jobs could be axed because of decreasing mail volumes. The state-owned enterprise planned to combine its mail and parcel networks, currently delivered separately by posties and couriers.

"Our frontline postie team is in the 700-800 people. Some of the changes we're talking about will also impact our processing teams as we change the way we process mail, and also impact some of our support roles," Walsh said.

The new system would likely be rolled out in stages across the country, he said, but would not directly affect customers.

However, the unions representing postal workers said their members wanted more certainty about the changes. E tū negotiation specialist Joe Gallagher said it was still unclear which jobs would be cut, and when.

"We've really got to get into the detail of what that means... the workers need to be able to plan for their futures - whether that's with another employer, look at other opportunities with Post, or potentially looking at retirement."

Workers had felt heard by the consultation process, Gallagher said, and no one was getting pushed out of the door with only a few months' notice.

However, he was concerned the contracting model used to hire couriers would now be applied to more people.

"It's a race to the bottom," he said.

"This is a model that potentially leads to exploitation for workers, and there are a large number of migrant workers, particularly in telecommunications and couriers, and we've seen growing numbers of exploitation.

"I'm not saying that's happening at Post at the moment, but when you have these types of models you are open to that exposure, so we are really concerned."

End of an era?

Meanwhile, the New Zealand Postal Workers Union of Aotearoa said it was meeting with lawyers next week, after the company rejected its proposal for mail delivery by electric bike.

Spokesperson John Maynard said the company could be breaching the State-Owned Enterprises Act, the Employment Relations Act and the collective agreement with its workers. NZ Post was required to provide a business case to the union when there was going to be a reduction of staff, he said.

"It took quite a long time to get the company to comply with that provision, but we don't think they've complied with it fully.

"The State-Owned Enterprises Act, they have to have a policy which generally accepts fair and proper treatment of employees. They're going to lay off all the workers and give the work to contractors who have no rights. They're told in their contract no annual leave, no sick pay - it's really a third-class workforce."

Dunedin postal worker and E tū delegate Terry Howells spent more than three decades delivering mail, and said the end of posties was the end of an era. Many posties chose the work because of the lifestyle, he said, and very few would want to switch to courier driving.

"To become a courier driver, it's a huge expense to start out because you've got to buy your own van and have all your own equipment ... it's delivering mainly parcels for couriers, so it's basically a different job."

Howells said the consultation had been drawn out but still lacked a clear framework for going forward, because the company was waiting for mail volumes to drop further before merging the delivery streams.

Howells said he had loved his time as a postie and had felt like a part of the local community - like many of his colleagues.

"Here in Dunedin, we were mainly walking posties and you were known on the runs you went on. People actually looked forward to seeing you, especially some of the old people. You would stop and talk to them, maybe even go and have a cup of tea at times with them, and that was the only people they got to see during the day."

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