Joint declaration on impact of change in postal sector

In April 2012, the EU-level postal employers’ organisation, PostEurop, and the European trade union federation, UNI Europa Post & Logistics, signed a new joint declaration underlining the need to better manage the impact of changes in the structure of postal services across Europe. The joint declaration, signed on 18 April 2012, aims to tackle the problems faced by postal operators and their workers created by the opening up of the EU postal market and the impact of new technology.

Background

The full opening up of Europe’s postal market took place on 1 January 2011 in 16 Member States, and will extend to the remaining 11 on 1 January 2013. This process is being carried out under the EU’s third postal directive (114Kb PDF), and the region’s postal sector is now experiencing a period of significant change as competitors enter the market.

Many competitors, according to the social partners in this sector, rely on business and labour market models that are different from those of the national postal operators. The operation of the sector has also been affected by a decrease in letter mail volume due to new technology.

A new joint declaration

On 18 April 2012, the EU-level postal employers’ organisation PostEurop and the European trade union federation UNI Europa Post & Logistic s, signed a new joint declaration on postal sector evolution (2.6Mb PDF).

Its aim is to build on the 2007 joint declaration on postal sector evolution (208Kb PDF) on the evolution of the postal sector, which underlined the importance of fair competition. The social partners also want to support the postal sector during the final stages of implementation of market opening and ensure that the social clause contained in the EU’s postal directive is adhered to.

The signatories say these sectoral changes have social consequences, both for job numbers and for employment models. They want the changes underway in the sector to be supported by social dialogue, particularly on issues such as training and internal and external redeployment.

They believe change will continue to have an impact on national postal operators, and say driving change forward while maintaining high-quality postal services will require a quality workforce which is motivated, trained and adaptable. Recognising that the need to provide universal postal services at affordable prices is at the heart of EU regulation of this sector, the signatories also believe there needs to be a balance between ‘an appropriately rewarded workforce’ and adaptability to the new postal market environment.

Main principles

The joint declaration sets out the following principles.

  • To better anticipate change and its consequences on the provision of postal services and work organisation, employment and skills, and ensure policies are accompanied by a constructive social dialogue.
  • To recognise that the management of change can benefit from country-specific social dialogue and that constructive co-operation between the social partners is vital.
  • To develop employees’ employability in order to promote their internal and external mobility. This should be a shared responsibility between the social partners and individual employees and will involve training, redeployment programmes and internal communication.
  • To encourage investment in the sector by modernising operations to address physical and electronic substitution, and improve the adaptability of work organisation to meet new customer requirements and increase productivity.

The way forward

The signatories say they will continue to monitor social change in their sector, as they have done since the 2007 joint declaration. This will be particularly important in countries where social dialogue is less developed. In particular, they say competition needs to be fair while recognising that there is no one solution to the challenges and opportunities in all Member States. They are calling on all postal operators and trade unions to implement the principles contained in the new joint statement.

They also make a commitment to:

  • raise awareness of key stakeholders of the social impacts of change;
  • continue to monitor the provision of the universal postal service;
  • maintain and disseminate the results of the social observatory in the sector;
  • ensure a continuous process of observation in the sector;
  • collect and disseminate good practice.

Commentary

This is an important step forward for the social dialogue in the EU postal sector, intended to support the sector and its employees during a period of transition and significant change caused by the opening up of the postal services market, and by significant structural changes.

Dominique Bailly, Chair of the Social Dialogue Committee and Chair of the Social Responsibility Committee at PostEurop, described the document as:

…a milestone in the work of the Social Dialogue Committee after several years of close discussions and study of the specific social evolution in the postal sector within the EU Member States.

Andrea Broughton, Institute for Employment Studies

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