Statement on the Postal Services

Brussels, 7-8/12/2006

Postal Services

The European Commission has, on 18 October 2006, put forward a proposal to open European postal services to full competition as of 1.1.2009. The aim in so doing is to simply do away with postal monopolies altogether. Details of how postal services will be financed are of secondary importance. The probable outcome is that some operators will be forced to lower the quality of their service and proceed with job cuts on a massive scale, which will have a negative impact on regional development and the economic and social cohesion of society.

The proposal goes against what should be the two main objectives of a new postal directive:

1) to guarantee a good-quality postal service to everybody, regardless of where they live, at affordable prices (uniform tariffs).
Today, the universal postal service obligation is fulfilled by a very limited "reserved services area" (letters weighing 50g or less). The Commission's proposal, if adopted, will eliminate this reserved services area, which has proved to be the only reliable system. The proposal does not offer any other feasible proposals for financing, apart from state aid (taxpayers paying for something they do not pay for today), cross-subsidisation (which the Commission itself has opposed for decades), or the establishment of a 'compensation fund' that competitors should pay into (all such funds have up to now failed to work).

2) to create a harmonised internal market for postal services.
The Commission's proposal, if adopted, will create an uneven playing field, with different conditions for competition in different countries, undermining the objective of creating a single internal market for EU postal services.

The ETUC is particularly concerned by the impact of the Commission's proposal on employment: both on the number and the quality of jobs. Hundreds of thousands of jobs have been lost since the liberalisation of European postal services was launched. The major reason (the secondary one being new technology) has been market opening. It is clear that this policy is creating unstable employment with poor pay and bad working conditions. It is promoting temporary and part-time jobs and self-employed contracts with conditions under which nobody can live decently.

In the long run, this will have a far-reaching and negative impact on the European Union. The ETUC has repeatedly called for a moratorium on liberalisations and an evaluation of its impact on jobs and workers, before going any further with this policy. It is contrary to the objectives of the European Social Model merely to replace public monopolies with private oligopolies, instead of creating “more and better jobs”, and to replace secure work with precarious jobs and working hours incompatible with reconciling work and family life.

The ETUC has called for the Commission to propose a framework directive on services of general (economic) interest, to create legal security for these sectors, and to this end it has launched a campaign to collect signatures to a petition.

The ETUC urges the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament not to adopt the proposal for full market opening in 2009, but to call on the Commission instead to put forward a proposal that would create an internal market for postal services for the benefit of everyone, and not only for big mailing and multinational companies.

The ETUC supports UNI Postal Europa's campaign during the run-up to decisions in the Council and Parliament and will closely cooperate with UNI Europa.