The union representing Australia Post employees says privatisation could be on the cards despite government assurances.
The postal workers’ union fears Australia Post’s reported plans to slash 900 jobs and pare back mail delivery services could pave the way for privatisation.
Fairfax Media reports the jobs could go as early as Tuesday, as the agency faces forecast losses totalling billions of dollars due to its failing letters business.
It says everyday home delivery of standard-priced mail could also be cut back to two or three times a week, depending on approval to change government regulations.
Finance Minister Mathias Cormann has ruled out selling off Australia Post for now.
“I’m not going to rule out what may or may not happen in the future, but right now we’ve made a decision that it’s not sensible to proceed with a possible sale of Australian Post,” he told Sky News on Sunday.
While the government had considered a Commission of Audit recommendation to privatise Australia Post, it didn’t think the time was right because of the structural challenges facing the agency, he said.
But the Communications, Electrical and Plumbing Union (CEPU) warns the reported jobs cuts and reforms could be a step towards a future sell-off.
“There’s obviously a growing fear in the workforce in terms of privatisation and what that will mean in terms of future employment within Australia Post,” CEPU Postal and Telecommunications NSW Secretary Jim Metcher told reporters on Sunday.
“But I would expect the community should also fear privatisation because privatisation brings cuts to services, it brings rising costs to services.”
Acting Prime Minister Warren Truss said Australia Post faced a revenue crisis in relation to standard letter deliveries.
“They are doing well in parcel delivery … but that represents a substantial change in the nature of the business,” Mr Truss told ABC TV.
He said maintaining mail services in remote and regional communities should be a priority, a call echoed by the union.
The CEPU’s Mr Metcher said job losses were not unexpected but the reported scale of the cuts – and the fact that the news was broken in the media – had hit workers hard.
“It’s not surprising but they are as shocked as their union representatives today in learning about these matters in the press,” he said.
Australia Post wouldn’t confirm the reported cuts but released a statement saying it was “confronting dramatic change due to the impact of declining revenues in our letters service”.
Those losses had already overwhelmed the profits in parcels and without reform, the letters services would lose over $1 billion annually in a few years, it said.
“Australia Post is already responding and is a much leaner organisation than it was three years ago.
“We will not be commenting further until the impact of these and other changes we need to make are communicated to our staff, who of course remain our top priority.”