Royal Mail: Where’s My Post? Renationalise to defend services

Gary Clark, retired Royal Mail worker, responds to recent BBC Panorama episode: ‘Royal Mail: Where’s My Post?’ and the issues raised

It is now widely accepted that Royal Mail is constantly failing the Universal Service Obligation (USO). Royal Mail has been prioritising parcels over letters since the pandemic, when it got the go-ahead, in the short term, to change USO for letters from six days a week to five. At the time, Socialist Party members in Royal Mail warned that this was dangerous as it could become the norm.

Ofcom has now announced a review of USO, with a view to reducing it to either five days or even a three-day service. Ofcom says that, since 2011, the volume of letters has reduced from 14.3 billion a year to 7.3 billion, while at the same time parcels have increased from 2.6 billion to 3.6 billion – reaching 4 billion at the peak of the pandemic.

Socialists in Royal Mail are saying there should be a review of the role of what the postal service can be, that should instead include a 35-hour week for workers, which was agreed a number of years ago, but also that the wider role should be looked at.

No other service can deliver to 32 million households six days a week. During the pandemic, the importance of this was clearly shown, where we delivered and collected vital mail and test kits. For many people, a postal worker is the only person they see. Postal workers could be delivering medical prescriptions and other services by looking in on vulnerable people.

The CWU, which represents Royal Mail workers, should call for the renationalisation of Royal Mail and demand that Keir Starmer implements this policy, that was passed at the 2022 Labour Party conference. But the union should go further and call for the whole parcel sector to be a publicly owned. This would lead to only one parcel van required to deliver to any delivery point, which would be a more efficient and environmentally friendly delivery service.

As the Horizon Post Office scandal shows, what is required is for the entire postal and delivery sector to be integrated, which would support USO, and allow worker and community control of Royal Mail, for it to be run as a public service and not profit.