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The creeping privatisation of mail delivery

By   /  June 30, 2015  /  18 Comments

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When I opened up my mailbox yesterday there was a NZ Post leaflet cheerily telling me that “The world is changing, so we’re changing with it.” Good news? Unfortunately not.

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game-of-thrones-season-4-trailer-secrets-lannister-1-750x500

Why is this bloke from Game of Thrones trying to sell us NZ Post? He arrested his son on trumped up charges – I wouldn’t buy stamps from him!

When I opened up my mailbox yesterday there was a NZ Post leaflet cheerily telling me that “The world is changing, so we’re changing with it.” Good news? Unfortunately not. When I turned the leaflet over it informed me that my mail would now be delivered only on alternate days – that is, three times a week.

This is tremendous news for the main private mail deliverer, DX Mail, a subsidiary of Freightways. Earlier this year Freightways managing director Dean Bracewell said that as the NZ Post service “does decline customers look for a premium service.”

DX Mail has already picked up a lot of business mail and this will increase, particular for those firms who want their mail delivered the following day. DX mail provides a cost-competitive cross-town next day delivery service and is targeting the big mailers like schools, hospitals and banks.

NZ Post is helping DX Mail in several ways, not just by reducing the frequency of its deliveries.

Since 2008 NZ Post has removed around 1300 street post boxes (about 30% of the total) and the process continues. For example, in early June NZ Post removed 31 post boxes in Lower Hutt. Businesses that used to put their mail in a nearby post box are now more likely to phone up DX Mail and get them to collect it, or they might take it take it to the nearest DX Mail Exchange centre or street box, the numbers of which are increasing beyond their present 300.

NZ Post also helps DX Mail under a contract whereby it delivers DX letters to any places DX Mail feels it wouldn’t be cost effective for them to do it themselves, including small towns or rural areas. NZ Post, unlike DX Mail, is under a social obligation to deliver mail to even the most out of way places, at the standard letter and parcel rates, which in this respect does make NZ Post less “competitive” than DX Mail.

There’s a revealing photo on the NZ Post leaflet delivered to my letterbox yesterday. In it a smiling woman holds two parcels. Not a letter in sight. The photo symbolises the current focus of NZ Post as a parcel deliverer tapping into the growth of online purchasing.

However, by letting private operators like DX get a greater foothold in mail delivery, NZ Post might find itself subject to new challenges in parcel delivery too.  DX will be helped by the fact that its parent company, Freightways, already runs a substantial parcel delivery courier business.

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18 Comments

  1. GettingOn says:

    I guess that social obligation and profit don’t go together. Who would have thought. Reminds me of the problems in the UK with bed blockers in hospital. The privatised and very profitable care home sector are more than happy to take on the easy patients. The expensive high needs ones are left behind in hospital because no one will take them and this leads to longer waiting lists and more expense for the NHS.

  2. Cagey says:

    There is also another point- redirection services.

    When we moved house 2 years ago we went into the Postshop, filled in the form, paid a pretty penny for them to redirect our mail for 6 month. Our daughter was suffering from significant mental health issues at the time but we never received her school report and details of the parent teacher meeting as her school sent mail -by DX.

    The next government should show some gut (not this one tho as they have none) and actually make government organisations deliver through NZ Post – but Post organization need to cut the crap and deliver the service that they – as a government organisation – should do. Post made a profit last year- they can give us a decent service if they choose to.

  3. Nick says:

    NZ Post are also rubbish at parcel delivery. From a commercial point of view they are way too expensive and will not up-lift. They could find a great market in parcel delivery. after all they still have the infrastructure, but to date they don’t.

    Is it ignorance or are they shrinking under instruction?

  4. Gosman says:

    Are you advocating that private businesses like DX Mail should not be allowed to operate in competition with NZ Post?

    • Only if they do it fairly, and don’t just “cherry pick” the most profitable routes.

      • Mike the Lefty says:

        When the postal delivery market was deregulated, the cherry picking argument was rubbished by National, but has now shown to be true. First, they started with the pamphlets (AD Post), then Courier Post. Split it into bits so its easier to flog off and doesn’t attract so much attention. We said this would happen and it did.

    • Cagey says:

      At present DX is running a cherry-picked postal business. If our postal service can’t carry two operators then – for the quality of such essential national service to survive – maybe the DX (Frieghtways) will need to swap back to it’s primary operation ie trucking. We have, after all ,only had a privatised mail market since 1998.

  5. trendy lefty says:

    I worked at DX Mail. Completely anti-union, very, very poor health and safety practices, basically none. Two branches worked out of shipping containers. I had only a learner licence, they did not care, sent me out anyway. Of a road staff of around 20 we had 6 off in one week due to serious injury through workplace accidents. Minimum wage and two increments of 25c each, that was it. Huge pressure to deliver more and more mail, runs broken up between smaller numbers of staff with no consultation. As for the “not economic to deliver”, basically anything that meant you wouldn’t get round your run in your paid hours, you brought back for NZ Post to deliver. Corrupt, and essentially NZPost colluding because it helps to break the power of their unionised staff. Having worked as a NZ Post postie as well, it was shocking to see the difference in how workers are treated. And now I work at a big union, and guess who we use to deliver our mail – union-breakers DX, and also sister company NZ Couriers for courier services. Not much solidarity going on there, comrades.

    • Big unions usually use Microsoft Windows and Office instead of a GNU/Linux OS and LibreOffice too. Same issue. Lack of solidarity with the software freedom movement, in which software is developed as a public commons, and developers can avoid unnecessarily duplicating each others work, by sharing free code with each other.

      Unions seem to have fallen under the same neoliberal spell as many government entities and iwi corporates, seeing themselves as financial managers, who must return “maximum value to stakeholders” on every dollar spent, without considering social or even longer-term financial consequences.

  6. Mike in Auckland says:

    New Zealand Post has repeatedly claimed that they have to reduce postal delivery services due to ever declining volumes of post. It is true of course that there has been a steady decrease in letters being sent, due to the now widespread use of email and other messaging services available via the internet.

    We are experiencing a major “cultural” change, where people have become button pushers, and where writing anything by hand is now rather considered an “expression of graphic artistry” than a way of ordinary communication. It is all digitised now, and only the older members of society still write cards and letters, with some rare exceptions for younger ones.

    One would think that NZ Post could adjust by expanding delivery areas, by having fewer delivery persons serve more streets and regions, and still continue delivering daily. But they have chosen a different approach, probably doing a bit of that, but also now only delivering 3 days a week (from July).

    NZ Post has only been competitive as long as they had volumes to justify the standards of traditional services, and rural delivery has always been subsidised anyway. Private delivery providers simply pick the customers and areas that make it feasible for them to operate, and ignore unprofitable areas.

    The same is happening in other areas where services have been outsourced and privatised, and the claim of “better services” that our present government so often makes is total BS, as the only way they could do that by using private providers, is to force them to deliver more quality and/or quantity with lower paid employees or contractors, or force them to work extra hard and extra longer, basically turning them into slave workers. Some of that happens, of course, but the rest of the end result is, only perhaps better service for some, less services for at least some others, and no service for others.

    I am not happy with the new delivery frequency, living in Auckland, and I have noticed that many postal boxes for dropping post off have vanished from our suburbs.

    NZ Post have decided to focus on parcel delivery, a growing business, because more people buy online and have stuff delivered to their homes. Even supermarkets offer home delivery now.

    But the online shopping, especially that from overseas, is going to kill off much of our retail business, and many shop-owners are already complaining about less business.

    Welcome to the future, a society where we work as little slaves and robots in low paid jobs, apart from the few needed “smart brains” designing systems and managing them, and where we go straight home, to have not only take away meals, but also our new clothing, technical equipment, toys, take away meals and so forth delivered, while we sit in front of glaring screens, to correspond with each other, and also busy sending off orders for the goods being sent to us. It is all happening in an increasingly “faceless”, unnatural way, where we have little direct person to person contact, and where fewer and fewer people are capable of, or even interested in, communicating in traditional, “normal” ways with each other.

    Every day I see countless people walk around like zombies, staring at their smart phone, i-phone and tablet screens, having NO time to see who and what is around them.

    George Orwell was right, we are being “trained” and manipulated to be nothing but managed, controlled and countable, predictable “digital idiots”, who lose touch with our real emotions, and will no longer be human, as it once used to be.

    • Draco T Bastard says:

      Even supermarkets offer home delivery now.

      I recall watching some of the old English comedies such as Open All Hours where you’d often see a delivery bicycle propped up next to the shop ready for the boy to hop on deliver the groceries – for free. Even today, many British stores deliver for free. probikekit.co.nz (yes, that’s actually a UK store) delivers for free – even in NZ.

      Here’s the thing: If we had an actual economic system deliveries would always have been free as they cost less than everyone going to the store.

      So why don’t we? IMO, because of the profit system. The capitalists see another service that they can make a profit on and so charge for it thus removing efficiency and real savings from the economy.

      But the online shopping, especially that from overseas, is going to kill off much of our retail business, and many shop-owners are already complaining about less business.

      Oh noes, the poor babies… /sarc

      Or they could get with the times, set up a decent website and start to deliver.

      Welcome to the future, a society where we work as little slaves and robots in low paid jobs, apart from the few needed “smart brains” designing systems and managing them…

      That’s not the future but the past and we called it feudalism. The capitalists love the idea which is why they’re working hard to bring those times back.

      The future doesn’t include worthless, low paid jobs at all as they’ll all be automated. This is a Good Thing. The problem we have ATM is that we need to take the power out of the hands of the capitalists so that that future can be that Good Thing rather than the return to feudalism that you portray.

      • Good old Granville 🙂

        The reason we didn’t have deliveries is not because evil capitalists saw it as another service they could profit from. They saw it as an expense they could unload onto their customers. And by and large customers were prepared to drive to one store and push a trolley around if it saved them money. We’ll even scan and bag our own purchases, and put our money into their account – you can do a weeks shopping in one store without talking to another human being. Banking is the best – Westpak for one charge a fee to use a service that means you don’t go to a branch and use a teller.

        It is not just a matter of NZ businesses setting up a nice web site and starting to deliver. If they maintain the retail shops, they have that extra expense. If they don’t, they still have an additional 15% GST to charge.

        You might be under a misapprehension about which jobs will be automated. It is not worth spending a lot on technology to replace minimum wage jobs. It is worth it to replace expensive jobs or to reduce them to low skill minimum wage jobs. Macdonalds, for example, actively work to remove any skill requirements by using computerised machines with pictures and bells. For this they get training subsidies.

        We’re just at the beginning of the computer revolution. Recently a factory opened up in Rolleston that takes computer designs and cuts and nails together panels for houses. In Germany, the panels even contain all the electrical wiring and pipes. Building will be little more than joining slot A with tab B.

        All those middle class management jobs, all the builders and electricians, real estate agents, a lot of legal and accountancy work, farming, teaching and even medicine will be deskilled and reduced to low paid jobs. To make them feel better, we’ll call them para-whatevers.

        There will be the rich, there will be the people who plan their holidays wash their cars and pamper them, and there will be people who encrust iPhones with gold and diamonds and make exquisite jewelled eggs and so on, but most people will be scratching around making sure the machines are dusted and the hoppers are filled.

  7. I’ve suggested to a few people that NZ Post should be setting up an email provider. After all, an email inbox is basically a digital PO Box, and with more and more businesses and government departments preferring to send out their correspondence by email. We’ve known for a while now that there will come a time when parcels are the only things that need to be physically delivered, and it seems like it’s not far off.

    Mailservers do take some technical knowledge to run well, but a small team of professional technicians running the standard free code mailserver stack wouldn’t cost very much to establish, and could be scaled up over time. I’m sure I’m not the only one who would pay a modest fee to have secure, reliable email, hosted on our soil, under our laws, by a trustworthy publicly-owned organisation. Yes, the mail business is changing, and NZ Post need to go where the action is.

    • Mike in Auckland says:

      There are a fair number of free of charge email providers, who earn a bit from advertising or other services they may charge for.

      I cannot see how NZ Post would be able to earn much by setting up yet another email service, as that alone will just add yet another provider to a fairly large number of providers out there, many of whom are based in the US or Europe, some in Asia.

      Yes, parcel delivery and so will be a future base for “business”, but post is on the decline.

      But then again, why not have a SOE deliver services that so many private enterprises offer, it all depends on what our government chooses to do, or chooses not to do. I think we know the answer.

      And Labour are busy now raising “issue” with the price of milk, and of an expensive display, paid for by MOBIE.

      I despair at the “quality” of our political debate in this country.

      • Thanks for your thoughts Mike. If you’re not the customer you’re the product. With all the commercial, ad-funded services you mention, we are the product. Some people, particularly businesses and government departments, can and do pay to be the customer of their email service.

        The point of difference NZ Post email hosting could offer, as I said, is hosting on NZ soil, under NZ laws. Also the fact that they are a company 100% owned by a responsible investor (we, the public), not a corporate raider like Oaktree Capital. In this age of PRISM and increasing concerns about privacy and data sovereignty, these differences are worth something.

  8. James Robb says:

    NZ Post’s opening statement could have been expressed more accurately: “The capitalist world is heading into a crisis, and we’re heading into a crisis with it.”

  9. millsy says:

    NZ Post is running down services to the point that they are not really worth having.

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