Significant number of jobs on the line as NZ Post confirms restructure

NZ Post has confirmed its plans to stream mail into the parcel network, which the union believes could subsequently result in hundreds of jobs being axed.

NZ Post announced on Tuesday it would progressively stream mail into its parcel network to "create a sustainable and cost-effective service through one network".

It comes as mail volumes continue to drop.

NZ Post Chief Executive David Walsh said the company has been consulting with employees and unions and engaging with transport and delivery partners since October 2023 before coming to this decision.

"The way we deliver mail in the future will look very different and we know our future workforce won’t be the same size and shape as it is today," Walsh said.

"NZ Post announced in June 2023 that we would be consulting on reducing the number of roles involved in mail as a response to continuing mail decline."

Currently, NZ Post has two separate delivery networks – one for mail and one for parcels. 

Walsh said over time the networks will cease to be commercially viable as mail volumes continue to decline. 

For customers, the changes will mean mail and parcels will be delivered by one person rather than two separate deliveries made by a postie and a courier.

He said the decision means there will be "significant job losses" in existing mail delivery, processing and support roles. 

"Since this is a long-term plan, no employees are directly affected by the move to one delivery network right now and our focus is on supporting our people with this change," Walsh added.

The Postal Workers Union has previously estimated 700 posties could lose their jobs over the next five years as it believes the company will expand its use of contract couriers driving vans under the proposed restructure.

Walsh said 20 years ago, New Zealanders sent over 1 billion mail items in the year, which has decreased dramatically to around 220 million mail items in the current year. NZ Post predicts this will decrease to about 120 million items by 2028. 

"Mail decline isn't unique to New Zealand. Postal services around the globe are responding to the same changes in communication and are focusing on the challenge of maintaining a service that has high operating costs and very low usage," Walsh said.

"We need to continue to make hard decisions about our future as we evolve to meet the needs of New Zealanders." 

He said NZ Post is committed to supporting its people through this change using a Just Transition support programme recently signed with the E tū union, that will support both those that may be affected by redundancies and those that are impacted by the change in other ways.

'End of an era'

E tū union said it is disappointed with NZ Post's decision.

Postal worker and E tū delegate in Dunedin, Terry Howells, said workers are upset by the changes.

"I think it's the end of an era for post itself, and people are quite downtrodden about it," Howells said.

"A lot of posties took this job because it's a good lifestyle, and this will be a major disruption to that. I can't see it working in the long run."

E tū said the changes will mean workers are moved to a contracting model.

"Being directly employed comes with all the employee benefits we've built up over time. I don't think contractors are treated well here at all, the contracts are tough. Going into that side would be horrible, really," Howells said.

E tū negotiation specialist Joe Gallagher said NZ Post contracting out mail delivery will make them disconnected from the community.

"Having directly employed posties not only gives workers better protections, it also means NZ Post has a real stake in all parts of the delivery of the services," Gallagher said.

"Passing the buck to a network of contractors means we’ll see a 'race to the bottom' with perverse incentives to make the most money, not deliver the best service."

Gallaher said while the Union continues to oppose the changes, E tū and NZ Post are both committed to a "just transition" for affected workers.

"When people lose their jobs, or their jobs become more precarious, it affects the whole community. We've been proud of the work we have done in the past to ensure workers who are affected by changes in the post system are on the best footing possible, for example by helping them into new work through the Etū Job Match programme."

It comes amid several high-profile job loss announcements. Last week, Ministry for Primary Industries announced it's planning to cut 384 positions and the Ministry of Health proposed changes that could affect just over a quarter of its positions.

Meanwhile, around 300 jobs proposed to be cut at Newshub/Warner Bros. Discovery NZ, 68 at TVNZ, at least 22 at Spark, and some at Les Mills all announced in recent weeks.