Monday, 14 January 2008

Organising self-employed postmen

Some 27,000 postmen in the Netherlands are forced to work on a self-employed basis for companies such as Sandd, Selekt Mail (a subsidiary of Deutsche Post) and VSP (a subsidiary of TNT). The number of self-employed postmen may increase if the delivery of letters under 50 grammes is liberalised.
FNV Bondgenoten is trying to organise the self-employed postmen and to get them an employment contract. A practical problem is that these postmen work from their homes and do not have a real workplace.
Organisers approached postmen at distribution centres and asked: can we call you back at a suitable moment? They collected telephone numbers and subsequently interviewed 120 postmen (only a few declined). The interviewees appreciated the initiative. “Such a survey is not just a means to collect information, but also a way to show postmen that you care about their situation”, organiser Reinier Stroo explained.
The survey revealed that many of the postmen earn less per hour than the minimum wage. Contrary to what the companies say, it is not true that most of them are housewives or students who are happy to earn a few extra euros. Many work for different companies in order to make ends meet (companies refuse to let postmen work more than 16 hours per week because otherwise they would have to pay social insurance). Some are welfare recipients struggling to earn enough to get off welfare. Most are unaware that they do not have an employment contract and therefore have no employment protection and no social insurance.
In December, all the Dutch postal unions protested in the Hague against further liberalisation of the postal services. The liberalisation has been postponed in response to the unions’ campaign and the introduction of a minimum wage for postmen in Germany.
Postmen who have registered with the union will be actively involved in the next steps of the campaign. The union plans to call them at a later stage: “Look, this is what we have achieved together, are you interested in joining the union?”
The report ‘Onbestelbaar’ (in Dutch) is available from the FNV Bondgenoten website

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