Australia Post announced on 26 June that it will seek at least 1,900 voluntary redundancies from staff over the next three years. These job losses are the latest phase in a major restructure that current CEO Ahmed Fahour has made the cornerstone of his business strategy.
Also part of Fahour’s package is the introduction of a two-speed mail delivery system which will require that businesses and individuals pay extra to have mail delivered at the same speed and frequency as dictated by current standards.
Fahour and much of the media have rooted the redundancies in the need for Australia Post to adapt to a changing world and cope with losses clocked up by the letter delivery service. According to Fahour: “We have reached the tipping point that we have been warning about where, without reform, the business becomes unsustainable.”
Australia Post was first corporatised in 1989. While not privatised, the postal service was re-modelled as a business, with the federal government the only investor. Its budget was separated from government spending and the requirement that it turn a profit introduced. This led to a wave of “reforms” aimed at disciplining the workforce, competing in the market and raising profits.
In 2012 Australia Post added to its corporate stable by purchasing StarTrack, a private courier service. Many Australia Post workers feel that StarTrack is used by Post bosses to funnel jobs away from traditionally union dominated sections of the service, and to obscure the real financial situation.
In its 2012-2013 annual report Australia Post noted: “Regulated mail business losses widen to $218.4 million on the back of another decline of 263 million mail articles (5.4 per cent) on last year.” However, with the inclusion of profits derived from parcel delivery through StarTrack, overall Australia Post profits grew by 29.1 percent in 2013.
It’s not just in parcels that outsourcing and privatisation are the order of the day. It was once the case that almost every person connected with mail, from the cleaners to delivery drivers, was employed by Australia Post. Not anymore.
For most of the two hundred years that the postal service has existed it rarely turned a profit, because that wasn’t the point of its existence. But capitalism, particularly today, demands that every aspect of society, even essential services, is consumed by the dash for profits.