Future of USO at stake

CWU slams Ofcom universal postal service report leak

Royal Mail: another week has passed in long dispute
The report will detail a number of possible ways to reduce Royal Mail's delivery obligations

The Communication Warkers’ Union (CWU) has sharply criticised Ofcom after the media regulator’s recommendation to axe Saturday post was leaked to the press.

An unreleased report by Ofcom – due for publication Wednesday 24 January – was leaked to Sky News on 20 January, containing a number of potential ways to reduce the Universal Service Obligation (USO).

Industry sources told Sky that the paper was likely to include suggestions for reform including the modification of first and second-class delivery targets, moving to delivery every second day, asking for a state subsidy for the USO, allowing for higher stamp prices – or cutting Saturday deliveries.

A CWU spokesperson said: “The early leaking of the details of the Ofcom report on the future of the Universal Service Obligation (USO) to the media sums up the lack of professionalism, integrity and credibility they have as a regulator. 

“This report, like their previous investigation on quality of service, has been produced without the input of a single postal worker or the CWU. 

“Ofcom have abandoned their responsibilities on quality of service and are now attempting to do the same on the USO. 

“Debating the future of the postal service in the absence of those who work for it and deliver it every day is completely inappropriate and should tell everybody what Ofcom's real priorities and motives are.”

Earlier this month, Royal Mail parent company International  Distributions Services’ CEO Martin Seidenberg restated that the USO was unsustainable for the business.

“Now is the time for urgent action,” he said.

“We are doing all we can to transform, but it is simply not sustainable to maintain a delivery network built for 20 billion letters when we are now only delivering seven billion.”

A 90-day industry consultation is expected to follow Wednesday’s publication of the report, with formal proposals for the future of the service to come later in the year.

The CWU’s spokesperson said the union would consult with economists and present an alternative vision for the future of the USO.

They said: “The CWU and our members are not blind to the need for change. But we want change based on the needs of customers, the security of our members’ jobs and driven by an ambitious growth strategy that sees the infrastructure, fleet and presence in every community as Royal Mail’s key assets. 

“This is a huge test of the new leadership of Royal Mail.

“There has been some positive recent signs but they must now decide whether to back a completely failed vision which will destroy the company or change direction and join the CWU in expanding the role of postal workers and in turn expanding services, job security and profit.”