Unions and MEPs demand stop to EU postal liberalisation
CEP-Research, 10 September 2010
Unions campaigning to stop European postal liberalisation due to its social impact took their fight to the European Parliament at Strasbourg this week, gaining support from MEPs, but their calls for a moratorium on full market opening were rejected by the European Commission.
About 300 activists from seven countries protested outside the Parliament building on Wednesday (September 8), while yesterday MEPs demanded that the European Commission put a moratorium on full liberalisation, scheduled for January 2011 in most countries, because of its effects on working conditions.
UNI europa Post&Logistics, part of the UNI Global union which covers postal sector unions, is demanding a stop to the full market opening until social regulation is guaranteed, financing of the universal service is clarified and “sustainable, reliable, quality services are ensured”. The union claims the European Commission has not fulfilled various pre-conditions for liberalisation, including ensuring good working conditions, research on the social consequences of full market opening, and investigation into the financing and safeguarding of the universal service.
“In our research we can see that hardly any Member State ensured good working conditions in the postal market as required by the Directive”, said Neil Anderson, Head of UNI Post&Logistics. “ From our experiences we know that liberalisation means in most of the cases a race to the bottom, competition on costs and salaries and social dumping. It is a task of the European Commission to protect the citizens of the European Union and ensure the working standards. But they haven’t done anything! So we need this moratorium to guarantee good working places in the sector also in the future.”
“Until now no study of the social consequences or of the appropriate regulatory measures taken by the Member States to ensure full accessibility to postal services has been provided. Since this was set as a precondition in the Directive, the European Commission should bear the consequences and think about appropriate solutions such as a moratorium on the Postal Directive”, said Dennis De Jong, Dutch member of the European Parliament from the GUE/NGL group. “The universal service is a democratic right to communicate for every European citizen. We want sustainable, reliable, good quality postal services at least 5 days a week, everywhere in the country, at affordable prices."
During the European Parliament plenary session yesterday, MEP Brian Simpson, on behalf of the Transport and Tourism committee, asked Internal Market Commissioner Michel Barnier, responsible for postal services, how the Commission wanted to protect working and social conditions in the postal sector, how it would ensure the universal service and when studies on the costs of the universal service would be provided. During the debate, speakers from the Socialist Group and the Greens also supported the moratorium proposal.
But in response, Barnier rejected the moratorium call, although he did promise to look into the social impact of postal liberalisation. “Any hesitation at such an advanced stage of the reform would create, and this is not in anyone’s interest, legal insecurity to the detriment not only of newcomers on the postal market but also for the entire sector,” he declared. However, the Commissioner said that a dialogue group would be created next year enabling all stakeholders to discuss the issues.
Under the third European Postal Directive, passed in 2008, the internal market for postal services will be fully liberalised from January 1, 2011, onwards. Five countries, including Germany, the UK and the Netherlands, have already completely opened up their markets. Eleven countries from eastern and southern Europe which joined the EU after 2004 or have difficult geographical conditions have been permitted to delay full liberalisation until January 2013.