Union takes fight against NZ Post's plan to replace posties with contractors to Minister Paul Goldsmith

The union that represents postal workers has written to the Minister for State Owned Enterprises (SOE) over NZ Post's plans to lay off all its posties in favour of using contractors.  

The Postal Workers Union said NZ Post wants to disestablish 700 postie roles over five years and expand its use of contract couriers driving vans, a cohort the union describes as a "third-class workforce".  

"Contract couriers have neither the rights of employees like the minimum wage and annual leave, nor the rights of genuine independent contractors who can chose their working hours," the union said in a statement. 

NZ Post has previously said the changes are necessary amid declining mail volumes. But the union said the proposed restructure may not meet the objectives of a "a successful business" under the SOE Act and it has written to Minister Paul Goldsmith. 

"The NZ Post proposal to lay off all its posties and increase its contractor workforce may breach the second principle of the State Owned Enterprises Act – 'a good employer is an employer who operates a personnel policy containing provisions generally accepted as necessary for the fair and proper treatment of employees in all aspects of their employment ...' 

"However clause 4.2(b) of NZ Post’s Owner Driver Agreement contract sets out specifically the employee rights to which the couriers are not entitled - 'any holidays or payments or benefits relating to matters such as sickness, accident, superannuation, holidays, redundancy, bereavement or the working of overtime.'" 

The SOE Act also requires businesses to exhibit "a sense of social responsibility". 

"NZ Post can hardly be socially responsible if it replaces small electric cargo bikes with large diesel vans to deliver letters, and it can hardly be a good employer if it wants its mail delivery undertaken by third-class workers - employees with no employee rights.," the union said.

The union said it believes the non-negotiable nature of contractors' "take it or leave it" agreements with NZ Post may be unlawful and has a case pending in the Employment Court seeking a declaration that the workers are in fact employees. 

It has put forward a counter-proposal to NZ Post endorsed by its members which would see a national network of local posties remain in place. The union claims its plan would still allow NZ Post to lower its costs. 

"The Postal Workers Union believes that posties on electric cargo bikes and motorcycles are a more efficient, environmentally friendly, socially desirable, safer and good employer alternative to mail delivery from vans. The Union’s counter-proposal also enables." 

In a statement, Goldsmith said it was an "operational matter and the responsibility of the NZ Post Board".

"I have met with the Chair and Chief Executive, and am aware of the matter. I will respond in due course."

NZ Post said it would give the union's submission "full consideration".

"At this stage no decisions have been made and we are not in a position to comment further," the spokesperson added.