Plans to replace the UK’s first and second-class postal system with a single-tier solution have met fierce resistance from leaders of the Communication Workers Union (CWU). The measure was proposed in the wake of a wide-ranging Ofcom survey, in which 59% of service users said that they would be happy with just one option to get mail to its address within two days, rather than the current system of first class, next-day delivery, and second class, three-day delivery.
However, CWU general secretary Billy Hayes argued that the measure would lead to a sharp decline in service standards. In particular, Hayes is concerned about the safety of the Universal Service Obligation (USO) – a clause in last year’s Postal Services Act that provides for six-days-per-week collection and delivery on a one-price-goes-anywhere basis. “The ink is not even dry on the USO,” he said. “This research clearly shows the value that people put on the post and highlights growth areas for consumers who predict they will increasingly rely on postal services for the delivery of parcels and online purchases. We want to see innovation not cuts in order to maintain and improve service standards.”
Hayes’s deputy Dave Ward added: “We’re very concerned at what we’ve seen in other countries, where in the Netherlands for example TNT is lobbying for minimum services standards of three days a week. This approach would be bad for customers and for jobs.”
Ofcom has described its survey as the largest-ever poll of postal users, and has concluded that the existing first-class option is expensive to provide and has also been outmoded by other communication methods, such as email and fax. Its findings indicate that a majority of people would be happy with a single stamp costing 53p, rather than the 60p and 50p dual-class approach. That system has existed for over 40 years.
While only Parliament can change the current minimum standards of a six-day pick up and delivery letters service with a universal price, Ofcom does have the power to introduce the one-size-fits-all system. The single-tier proposal is now the subject of a public consultation, closing in December, with a final decision expected in March 2013.