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Posties attack Australia Post management ahead of Holgate Senate grilling

Posted: 23 Oct 2020, 09:10
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Australia Post boss Christine Holgate will be grilled over a string of scandals at the organisation at Senate estimates on Thursday amid growing unrest from her own postal workers over sweeping changes to its service delivery.

The postal workers union has attacked its management over the temporary changes, introduced during the pandemic, which they say have led to growing delays in parcel delivery, increased incidents of speeding on footpaths and low morale among its workforce.

Ms Holgate has also been central to several controversies surrounding her leadership in the organisation, including over bonus payments, personal expenses, and a request for staff to volunteer to help clear a delivery backlog in their own vehicles.

The national mail service was relieved of its regulatory obligations in April this year by the federal government during the pandemic, allowing it to suspend its priority letters service, deliver letters every second day in metropolitan areas, and take up to five days to post regular intrastate mail.

Ahead of the hearing, Communications Workers Union Victorian State Secretary Leroy Lazaro said his members had made their views clear the alternate day delivery model had "made an already difficult situation worse".

"Morale of our members has never been lower and stress levels never higher and if the government and Australia Post had engaged in proper consultation with us and our members, many of these problems could have been avoided," Mr Lazaro said.

A survey of almost 400 posties found almost 90 per cent had reported they'd been forced to leave letters behind and they had remained undelivered for more than one business day.

About 67 per cent of posties surveyed reported exceeding the 10kph limit on the footpath to ensure their round was delivered, about 93 per cent believed the changes had degraded the quality of service.

Australia Post has been forced to deal with growing delays to many of its services because of COVID-19 lockdown measures, including a reduction in air freight capacity, a significant increase in parcel volumes, social distancing in mailrooms and dedicated shift start times to reduce crossover of workers.

In Victoria a massive demand and current workforce capacity constraints has put an additional three-day delay for all deliveries, which has led to some flow on effects nationally.

Its Express Post service is experiencing significant delays, with some taking up to five business days or more to reach their destination.

Some posties in metropolitan areas are now delivering in vans in an attempt to move parcels faster.

Mr Lazaro said about 50 per cent of efficient modes of small parcel delivery had been replaced with less efficient vans, leading to further parcel delays than otherwise would have occurred.

"With mail also being delayed for days on end, the government needs to restore the traditional mail service standards as soon as possible and Australia Post need to provide the extra resources needed in delivery, not less, to deal with the new norm of ecommerce."

Australia Post delivered a $53.6 million profit before tax in the past year, beating its $15 million target, after a 17.9 per cent increase in parcel deliveries during the pandemic boosted revenue by $567 million. Letter volumes fell by 14.5 per cent, causing a $220 million revenue shortfall despite an increase in stamp prices.

An Australia Post spokesman said the postie survey was a "small sample" of its workforce and the organisation had this year delivered more parcels than ever before.

"This included 118 million parcels delivered in the last quarter alone as consumer behaviour has rapidly changed due to COVID," the spokesman said.

"By moving posties into vans we have been able to deliver 600,000 additional parcels in vans on a monthly basis compared to last year. This includes many large parcels which simply cannot be delivered on a motorbike."

"We are working with the [union's] national office on a way forward that provides a sustainable future for our business, our people and our customers," the spokesman said.

In July, the Communications, Electrical and Plumbing Union of Australia signed a Memorandum Of Understanding with Australia Post, which supported the temporary changes in metropolitan areas.