Free the Workers, Fix the Post Office

by Brian M. Carney & Isaac Getz

OCTOBER 30, 2009

This month’s disruptive strikes at the Royal Mail are the fifth such industrial actions to hit the post office in the past 30 years. As we went to press it was still possible that a last-minute bargain could avert the next round, due to start today. But strikes are like repetitive fevers—symptoms of a chronic inflammation. Avoiding the latest threatened strike may mask the symptoms, but it won’t cure what ails the Royal Mail. Let’s do some diagnosis. In the early 2000s, on any given day, 10,000 of Royal Mail’s 170,000 employees were absent without any valid reason—about twice the national average. Desperate to reduce absenteeism, the management offered raffle tickets to employees who bothered to show up for their jobs for six months without missing a day. The prizes included 34 £12,000 Ford Focus cars and 68 £2,000 holiday vouchers.

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