Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Royal Mail and public ownership

This blog has several times lamented the fact that calls for the extension of public ownership seem entirely off the radar screen as far as far as the British labour movement is concerned.

But that doesn't mean unions are not ready to fight defensive battles on this issue. In particular, the CWU's policy is to take strike action if any concrete moves emerge to privatise Royal Mail, an idea that the state-owned business's chairman (and New Labour member) Allan Leighton has raised more than once.

I'm with them all the way. But public support for any future campaign will surely be undermined by the extraordinarily poor service Royal Mail is currently providing. They have lost - yes, lost - three of the last four parcels that have been addressed to my flat.

To make matters worse, staff at both the sorting office and the other end of the telephone at the customer services department do a convincing impersonation of not giving a toss.

No, scrub that. I know they don't give a toss. Why should they? Royal Mail salaries suck. They aren't paid enough to give a toss. As anybody who has ever done a low paid and routine job - and that includes me - knows full well, customer dissatisfaction is simply not your problem.

And yes, I know the private sector isn't automatically more efficient than the public sector. I remember the time I paid FedEx £60 to get a package from Amman in Jordan to London overnight, because my balls were seriously on the line if I didn't get it that day. They delivered it a day late.

OK, OK. Two parcels I'll never know what happened to. And I'm sure Amazon will simply send me another copy of the blues guitar tutor book and CD I ordered without any quibble. But even so, the Royal Mail's current performance is not going to help the CWU win friends and influence people.

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