Fewer letters

‘There has been so much less mail over the last years’

Many mail deliverers think the volume decrease isn’t all that serious. And yet, the amount of mail in the Netherlands over the past decade has decreased by 50%. What are Hans Mackay’s thoughts on that, after working in the sorting process for almost 40 years?

Do you understand how some mail deliverers do not see the reduction in mail volumes?

“Yes, I do. The bags of the mail deliverers are still just as full. But that’s mainly because their districts are larger now. In 2010, we delivered 4.1 billion mail items; in 2015, we only delivered 2.2 billion. We see those figures at the Sorting Centre. Here in Rotterdam, there used to be thirteen sorting machines running for small mail in the evenings. Now, only seven or eight are being used. Two machines have already been removed. Some mail has gone to our competitors, but they are also dealing with volume reductions. We see that from the fact that we process a lot fewer return mail items for them now. We’ve also seen many colleagues go; we now have a minimal permanent staff.”

Hans Mackay

But the amount of Letterbox Packets is increasing, isn’t it?

“Yes, more and more packets are coming in - especially from China. They’re often those small, thick packets. The SMO, our sorting machine for other mail, processes a whole lot of those. For us, that’s time-consuming mail, which is difficult to code. And definitely for mail deliverers, those packets are unwieldy; they easily slip out of their bundles. But it’s a good thing that with those, we can set off some of the volume reduction. Furthermore, I see a lot of major clients returning to us. For example, we’ve had various lotteries leave our competitors and switch back to us. So there’s good news too.”

What does PostNL do to deal with this mail reduction?

“Many colleagues who worked 37 hours a week were cut back and got 32-hour contracts. They received fair deals, but it’s not a positive development. At least this way, people can keep their jobs. PostNL also took measures to make our work more efficient. The sorting machines used solely for large mail are gone. We now have the SMX. That’s a sorting machine to process large as well as small mail. And it’s definitely an improvement. I’ve heard we are going to be working with the code line very soon. Apparently, they already use it in Amsterdam. All letters get an additional code on top of their usual barcode that indicates which cabinet and which section the mail item goes in. That sounds like a handy way to make our work easier, especially for starting sorters.”

Are you afraid you’ll lose your job?

“Afraid is a strong word, but I am concerned. We all are. On the other hand, I have been here since 1977. I’ve done all kinds of work here, from manning sorting machines to counting 48-hour mail to sorting uncoded mail. I’ve acquired so much knowledge. I can read a company name and know where the letter is supposed to go. The ongoing process of automation does make that knowledge unnecessary. Nowadays, I work with a whole team on internal transport. I take the red and blue mail containers from one machine to the other on the lorry. And in the end, I take them to where the lorries come and go. It’s a fun team, and I’d like to keep working there until I retire.”

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