Like most Londoners I have suffered an erratic postal service (or to be accurate: an even-more-erratic-than-usual postal service) as a result of the current dispute in the Royal Mail. This has been inconvenient, but not as devastating for me as it apparently has been for Barbara Ellen, the Observer columnist, who writes movingly about the traumas of getting the invitations out for her daughter’s birthday party (and I thought some of my writing was self-indulgent).
However, once you have got over the urge to vomit, Barbara Ellen illustrates the dilemma for the postal workers. The reason that the Royal Mail management wants to change working practices is because fewer and fewer important communications are being sent by post. We all rely more and more on email, texts and the telephone. Important documents are increasingly couriered. The current dispute will make all of this worse, as people discover they can manage without using the postal service at all or – perhaps not even realising that there is a dispute going on – forsake the service because it appears even more unreliable.
The postal workers’ campaign is designed to remind us all how much we value our universal postal service and to force the Royal Mail management not to proceed with the changes in working practices. The danger for them, as Barbara Ellen demonstrates, is that more people will give up on the post and that even the changes being pursued by the management will not save the service. And the danger for the rest of us is that we really will lose the postal service, which although we may use it less than we used to, is still vital for many people.