TNT offers to 'help out' in postal strike

TNT, Britain's largest private mail operator, has selflessly offered to fill any gaps left by post strikes.

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

The Dutch-owned firm is so eager the help out (and also perhaps to get its mitts on some of Royal Mail’s lucrative business) that it has even asked Government ministers to help get TNT postmen, clad in their attractive orange uniforms, onto the nation’s streets.

Trials have already been carried out in several UK cities, and Nick Wells, TNT’s chief executive, insists they’re up to the size of the challenge. But exact details about how it might work on a larger scale proposal are thin on the ground.

Private mail firms have been quietly, and not so quietly, eyeing up a bigger slice of the action since the CWU announced that strikes at Royal Mail were on the cards. In some ways, a strike would be automatic good news for private firms offering direct alternatives to Royal Mail’s parcel delivery service.

But RM is guaranteed exclusivity over the ‘last-mile’ final delivery of small items by the government. Letterpost, as it is known. Commercial rivals like TNT would be pretty chipper if the strikes meant that there was a chance that this exclusivity might be overruled.

Royal Mail has come up with its own solution to the strikes: hire more temporary staff. Despite suggestions that they would be straying dangerously close to breaking the law (it’s illegal to get replacements to do the work of striking staff) and the increasing ire of the CWU, Royal Mail has announced that 30,000 temporary workers will help clear any backlog created by strikes.

Royal Mail is keen to stress that these workers will not be doing the work of striking staff, but only clearing backlogs between strikes. Seems like a pretty thin distinction, but it will probably keep them on the right side of the law.  Especially since business seccy Lord Mandelson is known to have strong views on the undesirability of the planned strikes.

Of course with talks between the CWU and RM management apparently on the table again in the next day or two, it’s possible that the first national strike planned for Thursday may yet be called off. Let’s hope so – if the actions do go ahead it will be commercial suicide for the Royal Mail, as today’s move by TNT demonstrates only too eloquently. But at least we’d have those orange postmen to look forward to.

 

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