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Posties Need Our Support!

NZ Post has pushed ahead with its plans to lay off all 700 posties over the next five years and replace them with contractors without employment rights or protections. Now is the time for New Zealanders to show their support for these under-attack workers and take a stand against a company and a government hell bent on undermining worker rights, wages and the environment. Unite union stands resolutely with our brothers and sisters in the postal unions - the Postal Workers Union of Aotearoa (PWUA) and E Tū union. 

Following their surprise public announcement in June 2023 that they planned to scrap the jobs of all posties, NZ Post then entered into a consultation process with employees, the PWUA and E Tu which has just resulted in an announcement from NZ Post yesterday, 27th March. After thanking their workers and the unions for their “helpful” feedback, NZ Post nevertheless rejected all suggestions and counter proposals and instead announced that they will be pushing ahead with their plans, unaltered, though reassuring everyone that they didn’t “expect” for redundancies to start within the next two years. After sitting through their announcement videos, NZ post workers were unsurprised at the outcome, having had very little faith that any consultation from the company would seriously consider their points of view. While resigned to the NZ Post decision, there was also a determination amongst postal workers to fight for their jobs, and for the future of a postal service which actually serves the needs of its community. 

“Two years ago, the public, the press and the Prime minister were all thanking posities for the incredibly valuable work we’d done through the Covid years,” said one NZ Post worker, “and now they turn around and say they're going to fire us all - that’s the thanks we get!”

PWUA co-president John Maynard is appalled that a state-owned enterprise like NZ Post, who are required by the State Owned Enterprises Act to be “a good employer”, are ploughing ahead with a future model of employment which will strip workers of their rights, including basic provisions like holiday pay and minimum wages. NZ Post’s Owner Driver Agreement contract sets out specifically the employee rights to which the couriers are not entitled - “any holidays or payments or benefits relating to matters such as sickness, accident, superannuation, holidays, redundancy, bereavement or the working of overtime ...”  The PWUA is currently undertaking a legal challenge about the status of NZ Post’s existing contractors - courier drivers - the results of which could drastically affect whether NZ Post’s contractor model can proceed. 

The move by NZ Post must also be understood in the context of the changes ACT intend to implement by repealing Section 6 of the Employment Relations Act, in a move that economist Max Rashbrooke identifies as part of a clear anti-worker agenda:  "... what might happen to employment rights under new workplace relations minister Brooke Van Velden ... full-scale "contractorisation" isn't yet on the agenda. But the direction of travel is clear". 

Maynard also points to another major problem with the NZ Post plan - it’s inefficient and destructive to the environment. According to the State Owned Enterprises Act, NZ Post must have “a sense of social responsibility by having regard to the interests of the community in which it operates and by endeavouring to accommodate or encourage these when able to do so”. However, their plans involve replacing posties’ environmentally friendly and efficient delivery modes using walking, cycling and electric vehicles, with fleets of diesel courier vans. Maynard rightly points out the huge backward step in terms of the environment this change would involve, and questions whether NZ Post’s plan has a place in a modern world struggling with the impacts of climate change.

A detailed PWUA counter-proposal during the consultation laid out these issues and while acknowledging the real decline of mail volumes, put forward a series of suggestions that would have enabled NZ Post to make increased savings, while retaining the skills and experience of hundreds of their existing workforce and continuing with environmentally friendly modes of delivery. 

Responding to NZ Post’s blithe rejection of these counter proposals, the PWUA says that “it’s clear that NZ Post can hardly be socially responsible if it replaces small electric cargo bikes with large diesel vans to deliver letters, and it can hardly be a good employer if it wants its mail delivery undertaken by third class workers - employees with no employee rights.” 

Maynard is determined to resist NZ Post’s new direction: “We’ll fight for every job, and for a postal service in NZ that serves the needs of its community, treats its workers with respect, and looks after the environment”. Unite union supports and endorses the PWUA’s position, and stands in solidarity with our posties.

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