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2014-09-02

Australia Post CEO Fahour unites big unions, small business to oppose service reductions

Ahmed Fahour has a special gift for bringing people together.

The $4.8 million-a-year head of Australia Post has accomplished the rare feat uniting business groups, franchisees and unions to bury the hatchet after a new alliance was launched with the specific aim of stopping his proposed changes to the government-owned mail monopoly’s legislated Community Service Obligations (CSO).

The formation of the unusual new front is a major development in the battle over the giant Australian institution’s future.

If successful, the push could derail a radical restructure of Post put forward by Fahour that would see mail delivery frequency chopped and a two tier pricing system introduced to replace standard national mail.

While Mr Fahour has said some of the changes are already on offer to business customers, Post’s senior management has been lobbying frenetically to muster sufficient political support get legislation surrounding its Community Service Obligations relaxed so it can extend them to the wider community.

In the event Post is successful, the reduction in services to stave-off rapidly increasing financial losses would almost certainly come at the expense of thousands more jobs.

Now businesses that rely on Post, the unions that represent its employees and its own Post Office licensees are banging hard on the door of parliamentarians with the message that Post and Fahour must not be given a blank cheque to unilaterally curtail services without first reaching a compromise with major stakeholders.

So far the alliance lining-up to shut down Post’s proposed changes comprises of the Printing Industries Association of Australia (PIAA), which represents printers and mail houses; licensed post offices (LPO Group); and the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, Community and Public Sector Union and the Communication Workers Union.

The group says “key independents” will be among the first politicians to get their message when a delegation dispatched to Canberra this week for the latest session of Parliament goes to work in the corridors.

Alliance spokesperson Bill Healey (from the PIAA) said the organisations had “come together to voice our concern about the future of Australia Post.”

“Australia Post has failed to outline a clear strategic direction on how it intends to deal with the challenges resulting from the emergence of the digital economy”, Mr Healy said.

“It is time Australia Post worked with industry stakeholders and the community to develop a clear strategic direction for the future of mail services rather than misleading the Australian public on the continuing effectiveness and demand for traditional mail.”

But the group’s list of demands could be tough for Post’s management and ultimately Treasurer Joe Hockey to swallow.

The alliance’s demands include:

  • The retention of all of Australia Post’s existing community service obligations;
  • The restoration of Australian Competition and Consumer Commission oversight of price increases in bulk lodged mail and the monitoring of service standards, as is currently the case of with Post’s community service obligations;
  • The establishment of a bipartisan round table also involving all industry stakeholders to examine options for Australia Post’s future with oversight of proposals and outcomes by the senate communications committee.

While there is little that can realistically be done to arrest Post’s haemorrhaging mail revenue — which this year will swallow profits from its other business lines — the prospect of a well-organised, grass roots fightback that bridges traditional political divisions is a nightmare in the making for the government.

Post’s licensees are a particularly potent risk for the government because they not run their own independent small businesses, but are also often the hub of contact in smaller regional and remote communities where access to broadband is either so limited or slow it makes accessing digital services online a time consuming drag.

“Greater oversight is required of the management of Australia Post to ensure that a significant public asset is not irreparably damaged,” alliance spokesman Bill Healey said. Alliance members will meet with key independents and senators in Canberra this week to set out their vision for Australia Post’s future.”

Meanwhile, it is understood the value of savings on government costs that Post might potentially offer to departments through its Digital Mailbox and other outsourced services is increasingly being questioned by senior parts of the bureaucracy.

Post this month revealed a trial with the Department of Human Services that will allow electronic correspondence from the my.gov.au accounts to be viewed via Post’s Digital Mailbox.

However the secure representation of the my.gov.au service by Post still falls well short of being able to execute transactions, a key aim of digitising government services.

Post is also conspicuously gunning for a possible deal to outsource around $30 billion in payments processing volume from Medicare, a move that has some Coalition hard-heads questioning the financial logic of transferring workload from one government entity to another.

Australia-Post, Ahmed-Fahour, Printing Industries Association of Australia, PIAA, Licensed Post Offices, Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, Community and Public Sector Union, Communication Workers Union, CWU, CPSU, AMWU, COSBOA, Bill Healey, Clive Palmer, franchising, Medicare, my.gov.au, Department of Human Services, industrial relations, executive remuneration.

Australia Post CEO Fahour unites big unions, small businesses to oppose reductions.

Printers and franchisees balk at red ink service reductions.

Ahmed Fahour has a gift for bringing people together.

The $4.8 million-a-year head of Australia Post has accomplished the rare feat getting business groups, franchisees and unions to bury the hatchet after a new alliance was launched with the specific aim of stopping his proposed changes to the government-owned mail monopoly’s legislated Community Service Obligations (CSO).

The formation of the unusual new front is a major development in the battle over the giant Australian institution’s future.

If successful, the push could derail a radical restructure of Post put forward by Fahour that would see mail delivery frequency chopped and a two tier pricing system introduced to replace standard national mail.

While Mr Fahour has said some of the changes are already on offer to business customers, Post’s senior management has been lobbying frenetically to muster sufficient political support get legislation surrounding its Community Service Obligations relaxed so it can extend them to the wider community.

In the event Post is successful, the reduction in services to stave-off rapidly increasing financial losses would almost certainly come at the expense of thousands more jobs.

Now businesses that rely on Post, the unions that represent its employees and its own Post Office licensees are banging hard on the door of parliamentarians with the message that Post and Fahour must not be given a blank cheque to unilaterally curtail services without first reaching a compromise with major stakeholders.

So far the alliance lining-up to shut down Post’s proposed changes comprises of the Printing Industries Association of Australia (PIAA), which represents printers and mail houses; licensed post offices (LPO Group); and the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, Community and Public Sector Union and the Communication Workers Union.

The group says “key independents” will be among the first politicians to get their message when a delegation dispatched to Canberra this week for the latest session of Parliament goes to work in the corridors.

Alliance spokesperson Bill Healey (from the PIAA) said the organisations had “come together to voice our concern about the future of Australia Post.”

“Australia Post has failed to outline a clear strategic direction on how it intends to deal with the challenges resulting from the emergence of the digital economy”, Mr Healy said.

“It is time Australia Post worked with industry stakeholders and the community to develop a clear strategic direction for the future of mail services rather than misleading the Australian public on the continuing effectiveness and demand for traditional mail.”

But the group’s list of demands could be tough for Post’s management and ultimately Treasurer Joe Hockey to swallow.

The alliance’s demands include:

  • The retention of all of Australia Post’s existing community service obligations;
  • The restoration of Australian Competition and Consumer Commission oversight of price increases in bulk lodged mail and the monitoring of service standards, as is currently the case of with Post’s community service obligations;
  • The establishment of a bipartisan round table also involving all industry stakeholders to examine options for Australia Post’s future with oversight of proposals and outcomes by the senate communications committee.

While there is little that can realistically be done to arrest Post’s haemorrhaging mail revenue — which this year will swallow profits from its other business lines — the prospect of a well-organised, grass roots fightback that bridges traditional political divisions is a nightmare in the making for the government.

Post’s licensees are a particularly potent risk for the government because they not run their own independent small businesses, but are also often the hub of contact in smaller regional and remote communities where access to broadband is either so limited or slow it makes accessing digital services online a time consuming drag.

“Greater oversight is required of the management of Australia Post to ensure that a significant public asset is not irreparably damaged,” alliance spokesman Bill Healey said. Alliance members will meet with key independents and senators in Canberra this week to set out their vision for Australia Post’s future.”

Meanwhile, it is understood the value of savings on government costs that Post might potentially offer to departments through its Digital Mailbox and other outsourced services is increasingly being questioned by senior parts of the bureaucracy.

Post this month revealed a trial with the Department of Human Services that will allow electronic correspondence from the my.gov.au accounts to be viewed via Post’s Digital Mailbox.

However the secure representation of the my.gov.au service by Post still falls well short of being able to execute transactions, a key aim of digitising government services.

Post is also conspicuously gunning for a possible deal to outsource around $30 billion in payments processing volume from Medicare, a move that has some Coalition hard-heads questioning the financial logic of transferring workload from one government entity to another.

 (source:  GovernmentNews bi-monthly magazine)

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