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In the face of sweeping changes in postal regulations and the rise of digital communication, the right to quality postal services, at affordable prices, no matter where you live – known as Universal Service Obligation (USO) – is under threat.

A recent event organized by UNI Global Union in Nyon, Switzerland, brought together unions, decision-makers and key stakeholders in postal services to ensure that postal workers have a voice in discussions on the future of the USO. The meeting highlighted the pressing need to safeguard universal postal services against erosion and ensure their sustainability in a rapidly evolving landscape.

Regulatory Challenges and Legal Developments

In December 2023, Denmark became the first country to eliminate its long-standing USO. This decision has sparked significant discussions within the international postal ecosystem, prompting urgent calls for a balanced approach to postal law reforms.

Meanwhile, proposals for a new European Postal Services Directive (PSD) and its minimum standards to provide postal services, have far-reaching implications and have been heatedly debated since 2021.

A high-level panel discussion moderated by UNI Deputy General Secretary, Alke Boessiger, included insights from Merete Clausen, Director for Investment in the European Commission’s Directorate General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs (DG GROW). She reported on the ongoing study of the European Commission which will inform its decision on the directive’s revision.

Jean-Paul Forceville, Chairman of the Postal Operations Council of the UPU, Director of European and International Affairs with La Poste Group, France addressed the audience on the need to revise the Postal Service Directive and the overall regulatory framework.

Rita Filipe Silva, Head of European Union Affairs at ANACOM, Portugal and Co-Chair of ERGP’s Regulatory Framework Working Group, focused her intervention on the need to revise the PSD from the ERGP perspective, notably on the need to revise the definitions of the USO and review the scope of application of the USO regarding parcels amongst others. She emphasized that the new regulatory framework ought to consider the adjacent market of parcel delivery and the need to operationalize a level playing field between the postal markets and the adjacent markets.

Walter Trezek of the UPU’s Consultative Committee highlighted the importance of including diverse postal market stakeholders in discussions about the USO. He emphasized the role of the UPU in ensuring the future resilience of essential postal services amid the surge in international e-commerce.

Dave Ward of the Communication Workers Union, UK, shared ongoing developments in the UK regarding USO redefinitions and user needs adaptations. on the ongoing transformation of the USO as well as the implications of these developments with regard to workers’ terms and conditions. He expressed the priorities for the CWU amidst the ongoing negotiations with Royal Mail.

A global view

The conference also featured diverse perspectives on the importance of the USO from different regions. Uwe Köpke from Ver.di, Germany, and Andre Meyer-Sebastian from BNetzA, Germany, discussed ongoing changes in German postal legislation and efforts to limit subcontracting in parcel delivery.

Paul Schoorl of the UPU highlighted the Integrated Postal Development Plan (IPDP) and its role in ensuring the sustainability of postal services globally. Ibrahima Sarr, General Secretary of SNTPT, Senegal, emphasized the critical role of postal services in Africa for accessibility and communication rights.

Yu Yan from the Asia-Pacific Postal Union (APPU) underscored the essential role of postal services for economic resilience in the Asia-Pacific region, while Ignacio Liberman Yaconi of Correos de Chile discussed the challenges and adaptations required to sustain the Chilean postal service. Dzevad Ramic from 3F, Denmark, provided insights into the recent dismantling of the USO in Denmark and its implications for postal workers.

Sandeep KP of APPU spoke about the impact of new technologies on postal employment and service resilience.

UNI’s acting Head of Post & Logistics, Dimitris Theodorakis, said:

“We are adamant that postal workers and their representatives must be included in discussions about the USO and should have a seat at the table when it comes to their future.  Together, we must ensure postal services continue to fulfill their essential role in our societies, providing a lifeline for communication and commerce worldwide.”