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It might be time for Singapore Post to reassess their delivery and manpower system

One Singaporean, Andy Lau, had a bit of an awkward encounter with his postman recently. While he was at home on 26 December, he heard a knock on his front door. By the time he answered the door, a few seconds later, there was no one there. Only a Singapore Post note was left informing him that the delivery was unsuccessful. Mr Lau who was expecting a delivery then sprinted down and found the man’s bike where he waited. When the delivery man came back to his vehicle, Mr Lau confronted him and the man said he apparently waited for more than 20 minutes before leaving. Mr Lau also noted that the man couldn’t really explain himself when confronted.

Clearly, the SingPost delivery man didn’t actually wait 20 minutes at Mr Lau’s front door. Instead, he simply knocked and immediately left. This is an almost universal experience. We’ve all been in this situation before when you’re home, heard no knock on your door, but then later find a ‘failure of delivery’ notice instead. It makes you wonder if the delivery man even tried to do his job.

In response, SingPost said they would look into the matter. From their investigations, SingPost said that their delivery man followed protocal – knocking on the door, waiting at least 45 seconds for a response, and leaving if no one answers. SingPost claims that the delivery man and Mr Lau ‘just missed each other’. That contradicts the man’s own claim that he waited 20 minutes for Mr Lau to open the door. To this, SingPost said the man isn’t fluent in English and therefore couldn’t properly express himself to Mr Lau when confronted.

In their statement, SingPost also emphasised that they have around 3 million items coming through their network each day and they have clear operational procedures in place to ensure that everything is delivered efficiently.

It just so happens that this time, the so called operational procedure seems to have failed both SingPost and their customer. Is 45 seconds really enough time for a person to stop what they’re doing and get to the door? And why did the delivery man say he waited 20 minutes when he clearly did not?

This isn’t the first time SingPost has made it into the news. Earlier this year, a SingPost employee was dismissed after it was revealed that the has thrown away a stack of mail into the rubbish bin at a condominium.

The man who is a Chinese national admitted to throwing the mail away when he was confronted by a resident with a camera. He said he had over 2,600 mail to deliver every day while the Malay staff had a much lighter load. He added that he is only paid $120 per day without overtime pay. He then added that he was supposed to go see a doctor that day for his hurt ankle but wasn’t allowed to take the day off.

In response, SingPost simply said that they do not condone the man’s actions and have dismissed him after he admitted to the act during their inquiry.

Now, throwing away mail is an offence under the Postal Service Act so it makes sense that action was taken against this particular employee. SingPost replied to TOC’s query that it had filed a police report.

However, it seems that SingPost conveniently glossed over the issues that were raised in the video by their employee. He was working overtime without pay, had over 2,600 mail to deliver per day which was apparently much fewer than his Malay counterparts, and he wasn’t allowed a day off to go see a doctor about his injured ankle. That’s harsh.

Unfortunately, it seems SingPost have been glossing over these issues for years now, particularly after it was privatised back in 1992 and listed on SGX in 2003. Back in 2012, a netizen wrote a letter about his parents who are both employees of SingPost. His letter details the struggles they face as SingPost employees, working from 1pm to 8pm every day with no leave benefits, CPF contributions, basic insurance, or medical coverage. He also noted in his letter that he’s brought up the matter to SingPost but nothing changed.

In reply, SingPost clarified that CPF and benefits are only provided to full-time employees while the man’s parents were only part-time employees under the Neighbourhood Postman (NP) scheme who do not qualify for benefits. Apparently, NPs enjoy flexibility of sharing their job with a registered assistant. But if they want CPF, they’ll have to transition to full-time instead.

This 2012 case is a difficult situation – part-time workers aren’t afforded the same benefits as full-time workers and that’s understandable. But surely in this case and the one before with the Chinese postman, SingPost should be doing better to take care of ALL of their employees, regardless of their employment status? After all, they are SingPost employees and no employer should be taking advantage of their staff, whether full- or part-time, local or foreign.

Clearly there is a real need for change in the current system – something should be done to protect postal workers in Singapore, which naturally would lead to better customer service as well.