State of the postal sector in Finland

The Finnish parliament has been at the forefront of legislation pushing privatization in the postal sector, having passed laws anticipating the coming EU postal directive as far back as 1999. However the Finnish postal sector has remained relatively shielded until now, with light mail delivery firmly covered by the state-owned Itella Corporation, former Finland Post.

In a low average population density country like Finland, opening the market and dismantling the monopoly in 2011 will mean Itella may be forced to operate at a loss in rural regions while the higher volume operations in cities go to the lowest bidder. It’s a deal that has the potential to destroy the national public mail delivery system as we know it and Itella has thus far reacted to this with typical corporate methods: “streamlining” costs by outsourcing, laying people off, and replacing them with expensive machinery.

One such highly visible change has been the outsourcing of traditional post office customer service to supermarkets and similar private companies, to be handled by inexperienced low-wage workers under the jurisdiction of some other collective bargaining contract (or none at all). In other cases, offices have been shut down altogether with no replacement services. Although these actions have been justified with economic crisis rhetoric, the company is still turning profits and is developing its electronic, logistics and international branches. The staff and resource cuts in traditional mail delivery should instead be seen as a sign of things to come – preparations for survival in an increasingly competitive market.

The directive will, and already has affected postal workers all around Europe in similar ways. There have already been high profile strikes involving hundreds of offices in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands and the situation is likely to escalate from here on. In Finland the metropolitan area has seen stoppages and walkouts at one of the largest logistics centres and the new contract negotiated by the post and logistics union PAU, with a nominal 0,5% pay increase as the single improvement, has only increased dissatisfaction among postal workers.

Sippo Kähmi, postal worker, shop steward
Communist Party of Finland

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