Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 20 April 2014

Let's stamp out this plan to treat our fine posties as second class

I hope you all gave a cheer for your postie on Monday. It was the first-ever national postal workers day, which sounds naff, but was designed to make the point that privatising the mail will be disastrous.

So will scrapping the universal service, under which at the moment you pay the same price for mail to anywhere in the UK.

The Tory Government sees potential pickings for the scavenging hyenas that constitute its pets.

But, under both Tory and Labour governments, the Royal Mail has already been ground down in the name of profit.

You detect that I'm taking this personally? Well spotted, Sherlock. My grandad was a postie and, for a while, I followed in his footsteps. However, I gave up being a man of letters to become a journalist.

Though my uniform didn't fit and I had trouble coping with the 4:30am alarm call six days a week, I loved the job. It was genuinely useful and I got to stravaig about outdoors. Never been fitter nor happier.

It was a great place to work too, a proper nationalised industry employing a lot of ex-servicemen - and, for some reason, hippies (self included) - whose dedication was second to none. They really did care that you got your stuff.

I don't think that's changed. But there's little doubt that it doesn't work so well now. Billy Hayes, general secretary of the Communications Workers Union, said: "In many communities people are reassured that a local postwoman or man, who everybody knows, is a point of daily contact."

You're having a laugh, mate. We never get the same postie two days in a row where I live. Sometimes, our mail comes early morning, other times mid-afternoon. Parcel Farce is a joke, and I only regret I'm too late to make my annual plea for folks not to use it for Christmas presents.

None of this is the fault of the men and women at the coalface, as it were. It's the Thatcherite managers they got in from outside to strip the place down for profit.

Here's a question: who gives a flying one whether the Royal Mail makes a loss? It should make a loss. It should be subsidised. Run it past you again. It's. A. Service.

What d'you think we pay taxes for? It makes me choke that market-maddened politicians are always moaning about subsidising services, but don't think twice about paying unearthly sums for wars, nuclear weapons and the cleaning of moats.

When I was in the Post Office, we'd to compete in an annual auction for the best walks, with the most senior getting the leafiest areas. Then you got your streets and houses, and you stuck to them. I wasn't there long enough to get a regular walk, but it was the holy grail.

I don't know if they still have auctions. But the permanent linking of a postie to an area of responsibility - his or her patch, his or her people - must be reinstated.

I know the nature of deliveries has changed, with nearly as many small Amazon packets as letters these days. But you deal with that by making several short runs rather than one big one.

Besides, the principle holds: put the postie back at the heart of the community. Let's have a willing, well-rewarded service again. And let's wave a cheery two fingers at the profit-vultures.