CPSU Opening Statement at Aus Post Senate Inquiry

Statement to the Aus Post Senate Inquiry on 27 April 2021.

Thank you to the committee for the opportunity to appear this morning. The CPSU is the union that represents office based employees in Australia Post who work in call centres and perform administrative functions. Our members are often underpaid and underclassified for the complexity of the work they perform despite Australia Post's record profits. Our members may not always receive the same attention as other parts of the workforce, but they play a key supporting role in keeping our postal system working--an essential public service that local communities and businesses across Australia rely on. Our members have spoken to us about their serious concerns regarding the possible privatisation of Australia Post, current impacts on their job security and working conditions, the need for greater worker participation in board selection processes, and greater transparency by Australia Post executives, in particular, in their failure to release the Boston Consulting Group report and the slow rollout of the CPSU Australia Post MOU agreement designed to provide modest benefits to low-paid employees. It is the CPSU's strong view that, if these issues were addressed, it would significantly improve service delivery and workplace culture. 

Our members are deeply concerned about the potential privatisation of Australia Post and the negative effect it will have on their job security. This is compounded by the unnecessary actions made by Australia Post under the pretence of a response to COVID-19, which now appears to have been part of their underhanded plan to privatise the parcels and financial services areas of Australia Post. At the started of the pandemic, Australia Post tried to lead the CPSU to believe that the organisation was at risk of financial collapse and therefore needed to pressure over 1,900 admin and clerical employees to take extended annual leave or long service leave. When our members were left with no entitlements, they were threatened with either being stood down, forced to purchase additional annual leave or sign contracts at lower levels of pay. The CPSU promulgated the argument strongly that Australia Post should request financial support from the federal government to support this essential public service, similar to what had been provided to private corporations like Qantas and Virgin Blue. Instead of seeking financial support for its supposed financial pressures, Australia Post and the federal government decided to reduce its service delivery and introduced every-second-day delivery at a time when the Australian public, the owners of Australia Post, needed this public service the most.

Concurrently, the CPSU requested that Australia Post provide the Boston Consulting Group report, and this was denied. To date this report has not been forthcoming. We once again call on Australia Post and the federal government to make the Boston Consulting Group report public to the shareholders of Australia Post, the Australian public. From what has recently been revealed from the report, we believe that a possible 8,000 workers could lose secure, stable jobs, with up to 500 workers losing employment in the CPSU's area of coverage. As part of our Proud to be Public campaign, close to 9,000 people have signed our petition calling on the federal government to release their secret report and for the Prime Minister to rule out the privatisation of Australia Post. Our members are concerned that the proposed redundancies in these areas—the most profitable areas of Australia Post—would result in further job losses and a further reduction in service standards. This is at a time when Australians need good-quality, secure jobs and services the most. 

Given the performance of the Australia Post board, CPSU members are of the strong view that workers and their unions must play a part in board selection processes. Australia Post has a legislative responsibility to consult with workers and their unions under the Australian Postal Corporation Act. We call on Australia Post to fulfil its obligations in this regard. The CPSU is concerned that Australia Post has not been up-front with its employees and the Australian public about the effects of COVID-19 on its financial position and its future plans for major change beyond 2021, including the potential for privatisation. While Australia Post did have regular meetings with the CPSU during the height of the pandemic, management have been less than forthcoming about these future plans. Having access to detailed budgetary forecasts and information about the proposed direction of Australia Post will help inform discussions about regulation and inform imminent enterprise bargaining, which was put on hold by the employer, forcing our very low-paid members onto a wage freeze. 

Greater transparency will also help inform discussions about the community's needs and expectations in relation to Australia Post's services. The community's needs and expectations of Australia Post are already currently not being met. Members working in customer service areas across the organisation are telling us that they are being inundated by complaints. The CPSU has concerns that this regulation will only make things worse for those who most frequently use postal services, in particular in regional and remote communities, which may disproportionately affect older Australians and those who live outside of capital cities. Although the regulation is touted to last only until 30 June 2021, it may set the standard for how Australia Post will operate into the future and result in further job losses and a permanent reduction in services, which our union categorically is in opposition to. 

In conclusion, the important role of public institutions such as Australia Post has been demonstrated through the COVID-19 crisis. We should be investing in an essential public institution that has been a recognisable part of all Australians' lives and has a geographical spread across the country. Transparency and genuine consultation with unions about the future plans for Australia Post will be fundamental to this. By ensuring ongoing, secure employment for all Australia Post employees and maintaining community service obligations, Australia Post not only will address community concerns but also will meet increased demand on services and provide opportunities for local businesses. It will help local communities by ensuring good-quality jobs they can rely on. Thank you.