Postal workers in protest against liberalisation as European Parliament votes for enquiry into effects

9 September 2010

Postal workers in protest against liberalisation as European Parliament votes for enquiry into effects

Yesterday, some two hundred postal workers from throughout Europe joined a protest outside the European Parliament in Strasbourg against the planned further liberalisation of the postal market. Following the demonstration, they were joined by MEPs and national MPs from social democratic, green and socialist parties at a special meeting organised by SP Euro-MP Dennis de Jong, where the parliamentarians heard about the consequences of the liberalisation policy: mass redundancies, social devastation and poorer service. Today, MEPs responded to the demonstration by calling for a thorough enquiry into the results of liberalisation for workers and consumers.

Dennis de Jong and Sharon Gesthuizen
Dennis de Jong and Sharon Gesthuizen join the postal workers’ protest. Photo: Olivier Hansen

Attending both the demonstration and the meeting were representatives of the Dutch action committee ‘Red de Postbode’ (‘Save the Postie’) and from the postal workers’ union. During the meeting, which was addressed by both Dennis de Jong and SP national MP Sharon Gesthuizen, it became clear just how great is the pressure on the postal sector. From a number of different countries came the same story: everywhere post offices are being closed down, and social dumping is rife, with postal groups sacking employees who are then taken on by subsidiaries paying lower wages. The European Commission is, moreover, deeply implicated in this dirty work: research into the social consequences is suppressed, and a new ‘group of regulators’ has been established by the Commission whose work is not made public and whose aim is to allow the introduction of variable postal charges within a single country, so that, for example, post to and from remote islands or mountainous regions would have to pay more.
Today the European Parliament debated the issue, Dennis de Jong stating that ´The liberalisation of the postal sector has been no success story, but threatens to turn into a major disaster. The real facts about mass lay-offs, social dumping and deteriorating service must surely soon come to light.’ European Commissioner Michel Barnier was obliged to promise that, before the end of the year, a thorough investigation into the results of liberalisation would be discussed in the EP. The proposal won the support not only of left and centre-left, with harsh criticism of postal liberalisation, and support for an enquiry, coming even from the right.

End liberalisation

‘The goal to which we are committed, a moratorium on liberalisation, has come an important step nearer,’ says De Jong. ‘This research will show that the main conditions have not been met, that social dumping and a loss of quality of service are what are happening.’ Emboldened by the positive outcome of the debate, the Parliament’s Transport Committee plans to follow it up with a resolution of its own, putting still more pressure on the Commission. De Jong describes this as ‘important support’ for the struggle of the Netherlands’ own postal workers. This view was confirmed by one Dutch postie who greeted the result of the debate by saying that ‘it will greatly strengthen militancy amongst postal workers in the Netherlands and our fight for a decent postal sector and decent work.’

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