Sunday, 11 October 2009

Cutting Off Your Nose

The whole Royal Mail story has been a pretty poor fiasco. From high profile new management, to daft name change to partial privatisation and now a strike, it has lurched from crisis to crisis. But is the bastion of the communications industry about to commit suicide?

It's pointless trying to mull over the past as we all know the issues underlying at Royal Mail. It is an industry under threat from modern communications and the sight of nicely kitted out post -'people' delivering letters of a particular size to our doorstep could well be a thing of the past. Email, social networking and the whole growth in mobile and other forms of communication has effectively put plain old 'snail-mail' into a long decline. As the need for hard copy post and the worry of depletion of resources like trees for paper, one of the most amazing forms of communication is really a dinosaur. The whole industry needs to be refocused and revamped. Whether the current management know what they are doing remains to be seen and whether people like Peter Mandelson understands the ramifications either is debatable.

The first rule of privatisation seems to be to sell the good bits cheaply and then let the public cop the bill for the bad bits - usually some astronomic sum. For the Royal Mail it is the massive pension deficit which hangs around its neck like the Colossus of Rhodes that will cost us all £billions. In a time when a £billion is trivialised and has been liberally handed out to save the necks of bankers, it really does make you wonder why we don't save the workers at the Royal Mail but let's be honest, Mandelson et al can't see a future as a Non Executive Director at the Post Office - banks are where it is at when it comes to lining your pockets for the future - Tony Blair has shown that particular path.

Meanwhile, the Unions and posties themselves are set to make a bad position worse. A threatened strike in the lead up to peak business at Christmas will almost certainly see corporate business switch. Late cash collections, invoicing and non-delivery is simply not an option for business while we all would like to see our cards and gifts get to people on time. A strike at that time will not just be a stand for the workers, it will be the death knell for the company. It is as simple as that.

There is now a Mexican stand off. The highly paid management of Crozier and Leighton have taken a leaf out of Thatcher's book and decided they have run out of ideas and so will stare out the Unions. After all, what have they to lose? They will always get another highly paid job somewhere else and they don't have a stake in the business, so it's easy to kill it. It will be a case of 'I told you so' when it all occurs. This perhaps is the union's possible flaw in the plan. If they think the Government will step in - think again. They only act when their rich friends need them - common workers, they couldn't give a stuff about.

The Golden Boy management team will allow the business to die. There will always be a core profitable bit they can sell as a last ditch effort. The rest can be given to the taxpayer to sort out as we are stupid enough to stand by and pay whatever we are told to pay.

I would start making alternative arrangements for Christmas folks - bah, humbug, from Crozier, Leighton, Mandelson and all.

No comments: