French post to step up news deliveries after ‘error’

French postal service La Poste is to increase daily newspaper deliveries during the Covid-19 lockdown, as its CEO admits its previous policy of only delivering three days a week was “an error”.

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La Poste had previously reduced its services, including opening just one in 10 post offices, and reducing all postal deliveries to three days a week instead of six, except for essential food and medicines to elderly or vulnerable people. This included newspaper deliveries.

Read more: French postal service reduced

But MPs in rural areas have warned that some places are being forgotten, and reported a number of customer complaints about a lack of deliveries. Similarly, newspaper companies complained that their essential daily news was not being delivered.

CEO of La Poste, Philippe Wahl, was summoned to meet Prime Minister Edouard Philippe in Paris yesterday (Thursday April 2), to “ensure that [La Poste] was fulfilling all of its aims”.

Afterwards, Mr Wahl said: “This was all started due to the reduction in workforce through confinement and illness”, and added that very few workers had exercised their “right to withdraw” their services.

However, he admitted to having “made an error” in limiting newspaper deliveries to three days a week, and said that the service would now gradually step up its weekday activity, for newspaper subscribers especially.

He said: “We made an error, I admit it. We did not put enough means in place to deliver the news. We will find a solution."

Weekday newspaper deliveries

From Monday April 6, La Poste is to call on “more than 3,000 people” to help bolster this service, including postal worker volunteers, and staff from its subsidiary Médiapost; as well as temporary workers, and some on fixed-term contracts.

La Poste normally employs around 220,000 staff.

The aim now will be to distribute daily newspapers, firstly on either Monday or Tuesday (as well as the existing Wednesday, Thursday and Friday deliveries), and then progress to daily weekday deliveries from the week starting April 13.

Specifically, subscribers of newspapers Le Monde, Le Figaro, and Libération, as well as many regional papers, will see deliveries restarted from Monday onwards.

Weekend papers will now be delivered on Friday. There will still be no weekend newspaper delivery.

Marc Feuillée, owner of Le Figaro and president of daily news union Syndicat de la Presse Quotidienne Nationale (SPQN), said: “We spoke again with La Poste, and we found it very hard to be confronted with such a [definite] decision. The dialogue has now been reopened.

“We insisted that [deliveries] restart on Monday, so we can reconnect with our readers after the weekend. After that, we will go back to five days a week.”

Mr Feuillée added: “Daily French newspapers are printed at a loss, because adverts have disappeared. But we have a contract with our readers, and we must absolutely respect it. In addition, we must ensure continuity for newsagents, who, without us, could disappear.”

“Essential deliveries”

But La Poste CEO Mr Wahl ruled out the idea of postal workers themselves being the ones to decide which deliveries were “essential or not”, and said he preferred for that responsibility to fall on “clients and senders”.

The service is also planning to re-open 400 post offices in rural areas from Monday - especially those operated by just one staff member (who does deliveries and operates the office when not delivering) - plus a 600 further post offices the week after Easter.

La Poste has also said that 250 extra post offices - so 1,850 locations in total - will be open during the week of April 4-10, to allow for the payment of social security benefits.

People are still advised to only visit a post office if it is absolutely essential, and La Poste recommended that people use as many online and “from home” services as possible.

Last week, the service also announced that it was offering a free “check in” for vulnerable people, in which postal workers may check up on residents’ well being during postal delivery rounds; and a subsidiary is also enabling local businesses to provide home delivery through La Poste.

Read more: Covid-19: Use French post services from home

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