During Pandemic, Postal Workers
Show Community Solidarity Across the Globe
June 2, 2020
(This article first appeared in the May/June 2020 issue of the American Postal Worker magazine)
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues around the world, postal services have become more important than ever as millions of people rely on the mail for lifesaving prescription medication, government retirement and social program benefits, and other necessities. Postal workers continue to deliver daily during these dangerous and difficult conditions. As people remain in their homes, the role postal workers have as important lifelines in communities everywhere is highlighted.
As U.S. Postal Service workers, our mission of universal service to everyone, no matter who or where, binds this country together. This mission is shared by postal workers across the globe, who set out every day to move the mail and go the extra mile to show solidarity with their communities during this frightening and uncertain time.
Indonesian Postal Workers Deliver Medical Supplies and Cash Assistance
As a country with a population spread across several island formations, COVID-19 presented Indonesia with a logistical and structural challenge. Yet, due to the work of postal workers in Pos Indonesia, the country’s state-owned postal company, the government has been able to transport medicine and supplies around the country, and deliver cash and food assistance to families.
In West Java, the most populous province in the country, postal workers made nearly two million social assistance deliveries on April 15, the first day of the province’s relief program. Postal workers made deliveries directly to households to avoid congregating of crowds in the densely populated cities in the province.
Delivering more than just the mail in the UK
In the United Kingdom, postal workers unionized under the Communication Workers Union (CWU) have been engaged in heated disputes with private mail operator Royal Mail for most of the past year. Union members overwhelmingly voted in favor of striking in March, around the time the country began feeling the effects of the pandemic.
As the crisis became more dire, the union temporarily set aside its plans to strike, continuing the important work of moving the country’s mail, with a focus on solidarity with the people of their country.
“We are witnessing before our very eyes the importance of collectivism, of treating others as we would wish to be treated, and looking out for our neighbors,” said CWU General Secretary Dave Ward. “The current outbreak will test us and it will hurt us. But it is also concentrating our minds on the things that matter.”
This mindset of solidarity has stretched to the farthest corners and most rural parts of the country. In the small village of Worsthorne in Northwest England, postman Paul Parfitt delivered chocolate to many of the elderly residents in the community, most of whom are facing an indefinite period of isolation.
“I thought about how lonely it must be for so many people living alone at this time and so I bought some chocolates and left them on the doorsteps of the people on my round that I know live alone – and a special box to a local care home,” Parfitt said.
In Nottingham, in Central England, 30 postal workers volunteered to pick up an extra Saturday shift on April 25, delivering mail while wearing superhero costumes to lift residents’ spirits. Wages earned from the shift were donated to the Nottingham Hospitals Charity in the name of fellow postal worker Ian Pointer, who is recovering from COVID-19.
India Post Mobilizes to Transport Medicine and Supplies
On March 24, India went into lockdown to stop the spread of coronavirus. As a result, every non-essential business and service was forced to halt operations. This included much of the country’s transportation infrastructure, including air travel and rail.
As an essential service, India Post workers are still moving the mail throughout the pandemic. Now, they have an extra responsibility during the crisis: transporting medicine, test kits, ventilators, and other medical supplies from urban centers into less populated areas. Medical manufacturers and suppliers, who usually rely on courier services, have turned to their public postal service to quickly and safely transport these life-saving supplies where they need to go.
With the most post offices in the world – at over 155,000 – India Post workers have been able to accommodate every request it has received, according to the BBC.
India Post also maintains a postal banking system, and has been able to maintain pension and Social Security payments, especially important for older and poorer citizens who live in rural areas.
Irish Postal Workers Engage in Community Support Program
In Ireland, the postal workers’ union, Communication Workers Union (separate from CWU in the UK), and the country’s mail operator An Post came together on an initiative to make sure the most elderly and isolated people receive the care they need.
Postal workers, at least once a week, are checking in on these customers and relaying any request for medicines or supplies back to the country’s health service. Postal workers are then delivering these supplies so that their vulnerable customers do not have to risk going out to a pharmacy themselves.
“Postal workers have always been central to their communities and are anxious to help this national effort to get us through this crisis,” said CWU General Secretary Steve Fitzpatrick. “Postal delivery staff know their customers better than anyone, particularly in rural areas, they’re trusted and they very often have a well-established rapport with many people living alone in isolated areas.”
These initiatives were not mandated from An Post – rather, they came from rank-and-file postal workers eager to use their network and relationships within their communities to help the country through the crisis.
Canadian Postal Workers Organize Caravans to Support Health Care Workers
Postal workers all over Canada are showing support for the country's health care workers by arranging caravans of postal vehicles through hospitals and medical facilities. In many caravans are also postal worker family members, out to support these crucial medical professionals.
These caravans have been organized in dozens of cities, including Toronto, Vancouver, Dartmouth, Montreal, Winnipeg, Maple Ridge, Calgary, Halifax, Windsor, and Ottawa.
“Our membership wanted to reach out to health care workers in the city and show tremendous appreciation and thanks to all those workers for what they have done and continue to do during the coronavirus pandemic,” said Ian Anderson, President of the CUPW Ottawa Local, before their local caravanned on April 30. “It was decided a Health Care Workers Express convoy of our members driving safely past the hospital with signs and waving was a small way we could perhaps show that sentiment.”
Safety for Postal Workers Remains Biggest Concern
While postal workers around the world are continuing their essential work of moving and delivering mail, many countries’ postal services are lagging behind in ensuring the safety and protection of workers on the job. We stand in solidarity with our international postal worker brothers and sisters as they demand the necessary materials to deliver their mail safely.
“The health and safety of our postal workers must come first, no matter what services are provided during this pandemic. With the right safety measures in place our workers are ready to fulfill their public mission and be an important part of emergency services,” said Cornelia Berger, Head of Post & Logistics at the UNI Global Union.