The post across the pond

Barb Sweet
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U.K. resident no more satisfied, despite door-to-door guarantee

As Canadians grapple with Canada Post’s restructuring news, ex-pat Jennifer Simmons would rather see door-to-door mail delivery in the United Kingdom disappear than rural post offices.

Torbay residents Darlene Pittman (left) and Alana Mason leave the Torbay post office after picking up parcels Thursday evening. — Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram

“It’s absolutely crazy. In order to save money, the (Royal Mail Service) is going about it the wrong way,” said Simmons, a native of Green’s Harbour who has been living in England, for 25 years.

“Instead of getting rid of expensive unnecessary habits, they are going the opposite way by closing small local post offices.”

But the Royal Mail Service guarantees under law a six-day-a-week delivery through the universal service commitment. EU law stipulates five days a week for both collection and delivery.

Canada Post announced Wed-nesday that it is phasing out urban door-to-door delivery for the one-third of Canadians who still have it.

Simmons’ small town of Chudleigh in central Devon still has a post office, but residents fear it might be lost in the efficiencies that the Royal Mail has pursued.

Not having the small post offices in easy reach is more devastating for seniors, Simmons argued, as those customers may not be able to travel to post their mail. The outlets are also the centre of their communities.

Door-to-door mail delivery may be enshrined in law in the U.K., but customers are no happier about services and prospects for the future.

“I am not sure what they are actually accomplishing,” Simmons, a business owner, said of the mail service, adding people are complaining, but they aren’t really talking about ways to fix the problem.

U.K. native Gordon Jones moved to St. John’s in 1964 and can’t remember the last time he wrote a personal letter — he uses email instead and phones relatives in the city of Preston, Lancashire, England, to keep up on their news.

But he still receives bills and pays them by mail, so Canada Post’s decision to eliminate the door-to-door service he relies on here was hard to take.

“I find it annoying, inconvenient. I don’t know where for this area the central mailbox will be,” Jones said.

But he said in the absence of law, such as in the U.K., people don’t have any option other than adapting to the change in service.

Going out to a community mailbox will likely slow the number of times people pick up their mail, Jones suspects.

Moya Greene, chief executive of the Royal Mail Service was not available for an interview about restructuring of the British service and Canada Post’s plans. She is also a former CEO of Canada Post.

Simmons did not know Greene, like her, is a native Newfoundlander.

“She is not in the media at all over here. She  needs to get her head out and make herself known,” Simmons said.

“If there is somebody who is thinking about these issues and doing things, the public should know who they are and hear their point of view.”

Simmons said customers have been turned off by rising Royal Mail stamp and parcel prices and are turning more and more to couriers services, which have become competitive.

“They are really picking up the slack where the post office is failing,” she said.

It’s been announced the Royal Mail is to be privatized. According to the BBC, Greene has said the privatization of the company is beyond doubt.

The U.K. postal workers union has said it’s concerned about the future of the universal service commitment, although it is guaranteed by an act of Parliament.

A spokeswoman for Greene told The Telegram there is no move to challenge the law.

Communal boxes, such as Canada Post already uses in many communities and newer areas of St. John’s, are not really existent in the UK, outside of apartment buildings.

On Wednesday, Canada Post unveiled a five-stage plan that will help save up to $900 million a year.

About 6,000 to 8,000 positions will be eliminated mainly through attrition, Canada Post said.

Canada Post also plans to increase the price of a stamp by 35 per cent to 85 cents  when purchased in a booklet, starting on March 31. Stamps that are purchased individually will cost $1 each.



Organizations: Royal Mail Service, Canada Post, EU U.K. UNION BBC

Geographic location: U.K., England, Green Chudleigh Devon Preston Lancashire

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