Viruses besetting postal operators in Asia Pacific Documents

By Regional Postal President, Yoshinori Komoda, with UNI Postal's John Pedersen, UNI, 15 October 2004

Pressures to privatise and de-regulate postal services in the Asia Pacific region are being spread by two viruses—the World Bank and the World Trade Organisation.

That was the warning given to UNI-Asia Pacific's Postal Conference in Cebu, Philippines by Professor Rene Ofreneo.

While the World Bank (and International Monetary Fund) pushes for de-regulation and privatisation, the World Trade Organisation pushes for trade without frontiers and minimal government.

Postal reform is a strategy to convert Posts from protected government organisations into competitive, customer oriented business, is how the World Bank itself describes its mission – preparing the Post for access to world trade.

The world financial institutions are very anti-government monopoly. But, said Professor Ofreneo, from the University of the Philippines, there are no rules against global monopolies.

Nor does taking services out of government hands remove corruption. In the Philippines the biggest corruption cases in the last 10-15 years are related to privatisation, he told delegates.

We are not against modernisation, but can we modernise without going private?

Postal unions were also to go out and organise in the new logistics companies like DHL.

UNI's John Pedersen warned against a 'one size fits all' approach to postal reorganisations and urged respect for the different cultural traditions of countries.

And changed should come slowly to ensure a universal service is not threatened.

Delegates heard from country after a country a similar story of corporatising postal operators, jobs cuts, branch closures, competition from new private operators – and, eventually, competition from the rapidly emerging global giants of the logistics business.

In the Philippines the market share of the traditional postal operator has fallen from 96% to 40% and unions are gearing up to fight privatisation, said Noel Dacassin from PEUP.

All this in an Asia Pacific region that has 62% of the world's population but only three countries of developed status and many postal operators struggling to be profitable.

More that two thirds of these operators have still to define what is a universal postal service for their citizens yet provide home deliveries to 94% of their citizens.

A re-definition of the post appears to be unavoidable, said Gordon Maher from the Asian-Pacific Postal Union. All the products we offer have competitors – even if we think we are a monopoly.

We are in the communications business and we should be widening our horizons and embracing new technology. We should make ourselves stronger to meet the competitors head on.

Postal unions are faced with a dilemma of cooperating with change – and still face the threat of privatisation and de-regulation – or opposing all change and seeing postal operators allowed to go bankrupt by governments.

Sharelle Herrington, from CEPU Australia, reported on her union's cooperation with Australia Post – which has become a commercially successfully state owned service and gone through tremendous changes without compulsory redundancies.

But, warned Sharelle, even if you go through deregulation and work with all the changes it still doesn't take away the threat to jobs – especially full time permanent jobs.

Apart from government attacks on union rights in Australia, Australia Post has been seeking to franchise out many branches to private operators who would then employ non-postal staff on lower pay and conditions.

We believe the right to communication is a human right and that it is the responsibility of government – and it includes the right to a universal postal system, said Akira Miyashita, Zenyusei Japan.

We believe only a national postal service can deliver a universal postal service at affordable prices.

Postal unions in Japan are gearing up to a campaign against the Koizumi government's plans to privates Japan Post in stages from 2007, copying model plans from the European Union and Germany.

Lee Hone-He from KPWU Korea urged affiliates to monitor the activities of the outside consultants brought in by postal authorities to prepare for the changes.

Professor Rene Ofreneo