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Royal Mail Leaves 20th Century, US Post in the Dust

Royal Mail

Royal Mail, the UK’s postal service, expects to lay off more workers in the wake of its privatization earlier this year. The 500-year-old institution has already trimmed more than 50,000 workers in the past decade and says more job cuts will come regardless of who owns it.

Not surprisingly, roughly 96 percent of Royal Mail workers opposed the privatization. But in a rare moment of governmental lucidity, the British parliament voted through large-scale changes to the Mail’s antiquated bureaucracy. The Guardian:

“Over the past decade, the postal services sector has changed dramatically. A decline in mail volumes has coincided with the liberalisation of the market and the emergence of competition. In recent years, we have seen a significant increase in the number of parcels being sent. All of this has meant a difficult process of change for our people,” Royal Mail said in its submission to the business, innovation and skills select committee.

Vince Cable, the business secretary in charge of the sell-off, was giving evidence to MPs on Wednesday. Ahead of the hearing, the government said its main objective was to secure the universal postal service, which guarantees deliveries to every address in the UK, six days a week, for the same price: “Privatisation will allow the company to innovate, invest, improve our services, win new business, deliver the high-quality universal service, and continue to be a very substantial employer in the UK.”

What has the US legislature done in recent years to address the inefficiencies of the US Post? Aside from adorning post offices with famous namesakes and barring the Post Office’s own attempts to reform itself, not much.

To be sure, the process of restructuring the USPS will be long and unpleasant. It will entail layoffs, union showdowns, congressional blatherskite and probably a few misplaced letters, but the alternative is even less palatable.

[Royal Mail truck photo courtesy of Shutterstock]

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  • Corlyss

    You know, sometimes there’s an advantage in having an unwritten constitution. Because the postal service is one of the enumerated powers of Congress in our written Constitution, it will be very difficult to prize it out of their hands even under a guise of nominally retaining control over the function while privatizing the actual operations. Too much power in the ownership of the employees, too much power in controlling the function from a discreet distance as a GSE, too much power in employees in the congressional districts. Everyone can see from the PO latest difficulties that the legal fiction of an independent PO is easily penetrated to see who the real power behind it is: Congress. If that weren’t true, the PO would long ago have made the change to their pension funding that now keeps them $500 mi. in the red.

  • MFinn

    I believe that the USPS is the only federal department mentioned specifically in the Constitution; that might complicate matters when it comes to something like “privatization.”

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