Going Dutch

Roy Mayall · What's a Freelance Postman?

I was just watching a news item on Sky. It was a programme about TNT, the Dutch national mail company that has recently been ‘liberalised’. This is the company that earlier in the year Peter Mandelson suggested as a possible buyer for the Royal Mail.

Postmen over there are losing their jobs. Fixed contracts are being replaced by ‘flexible’ contracts, full-time postmen by ‘freelance’ postmen. People who have been doing the same round for 31 years are being got rid of and made to reapply for their jobs, but on a freelance basis.

The Dutch minister responsible for the change was being interviewed. 'As consumers,' he said, ‘and especially from business to consumer, there is more flexibility. Competition has made mail companies modernise, and that’s where consumers profit from.’

You have to pay attention to the words here.

Liberalised: That means open to competition, regardless of the quality of service. Cleaning services in hospitals were ‘liberalised’ and that gave us MRSA. Catering facilities in schools were ‘liberalised’ and that gave us turkey twizzler dinners. Rail maintenance and engineering got ‘liberalised’ and that gave us the Paddington rail crash.

Flexible: Flexible always means more work for the same pay; or in the case of TNT, more work for less pay.

Freelance postmen: Is this like being a freelance writer? Can I pick up the post any time I choose? Can I only post those letters I’m interested in? Of course not. What it actually means is ‘casual’, meaning you have no fixed contract, and anyone who's willing to work for less can undercut you at any point.

But it was the Dutch minister’s words that were the most interesting. He used the word ‘consumer’ three times, but he did a clever thing. He shifted the meaning of the word from the beginning of the interview to the end. At the opening of his statement he meant it in the generalised sense, meaning everyone, you and me. Then he added that word business - ‘from business to consumer’ – and by the third use of the word it is clear that he is referring to something else entirely: to business consumers. Corporate consumers. Consumers who will make profits.

So now you know who is driving these changes to our mail service. It isn’t being done for the benefit of the ordinary customer, but by the corporations for profit.


  • 17 December 2009 at 12:42pm
    Mainwaring says:
    The Banks were 'liberalised' and look what happened. Ordinary working people will be paying the price for generations to come.

    Don't forget too that it was Gordon Brown wot done it. He liberalised the banks after his first idea to build a Super Casino in every town and village in the land as a way of paying for New Labour's warmongering profligacy hit the buffers.

    That mad idea was rightly kyboshed by the common sense British Public. So Gordon and his underworld Pal Fred The Shred went and turned every bank in the high street into a Casino. The only difference being they got to gamble with your money and they got to keep the winnings. Poor Joe Public was not to share in the winnings when times were good just to eat the losses when it all went wrong. That was the plan and it worked. Now they are all off to sunnier tax free climes with their bags of swag.

    The sooner Labour goes back to its roots, remembers the workers and puts Gordon, Tony, Mandy, and all their Lord Snooty Banker pals into labour camps the better. Yeah and shove that croquet playing traitor to the working classes Two Jags in with them. That'll make a quartet. Then they could sing as they sew mail bags. To the tune of The Red Flag:- "The working class can kiss my arse, I've got the foreman's job at last."

    But what are we to do? Who to vote for? The Con Labour Party, the Con Tory Party or the Con Liberals - with 'Con' meaning Conmen, not Conservative. They all want to sell Britain down the river.

  • 20 December 2009 at 7:18am
    the abbot postie says:
    Hi Roy,
    As you know, next year we are expecting the a lot of new technology to be installed, also including the new "walk sequencing machines", allegedly meaning our prep will be greatly reduced. Well i will be interested to see how successfully that works, as at the moment our automation means that i regularly receive coded mail for chingford in my boxes-i work in an office in south west england!
    A colleague in a mail centre in this county told me that the staff there were offered "buy down" hours, from full time to part time, say a new contract of 20 hours a week.
    Unfortunately when the staff scrutinised the new contract they saw that it was valid for one year and had to be renewed after that.Not surprisingly, to date, no one has taken up the offer and management have had to go back to the drawing board!

  • 20 December 2009 at 6:37pm
    Roy Mayall says:
    Yes, we'll see.