Why people in rural France might not be getting their mail

Ingri Bergo
Ingri Bergo - [email protected] • 13 Jan, 2020 Updated Mon 13 Jan 2020 10:55 CEST
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It's received a lot less coverage than mass transportation strikes, but industrial action has been hitting mail deliveries in France for several months now and shows no sign of being resolved.


In an ongoing conflict over the reorganisation of the French postal service in rural France, workers have been taking on-and-off strike action for months, causing severe delays in some areas.

Workers in Cassagnes-Béghonès, a small town in Ayeron, a département in the south of France close to Montpellier, have been striking since mid-December.

Last week, Brittany's Poste du Finistère announced that it was taking "unlimited strike action" starting January 9th.

In Miélan, west of Toulouse, four post offices were on strike for more than three months last year.

In December, the strikes spread to several regions, including Brittany, Auvergne, Occitanie, Ile-de-France and Corsica, delaying letter transportation by days.

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So why are France's rural postal workers so unhappy?

Postal workers in rural France have had to adapt their work days to the changing face of modern mail correspondence. 

Because the strikes overlapped with the ongoing pension reform strikes (which postal workers also have joined), you might not have noticed that they happened.

But the postal strikes go deeper than pension reform. It reflects the already profound gap between Metropolitan and rural France, widened by a changing modern economy.

Firstly, the fall the number of postal sector workers - especially in the letter distribution service - has unions saying they fear both for workers’ health, and for impact on quality of postal services in rural France.

“Letter carriers have to run, or drive so fast that they no longer respect speed limits,” Force Ouvriere unionist representative Martine Buty was quoted as saying in a press release from November. “It’s really hard, an increasing number of people are struggling with depression.”

Unions also accuse the people making the top-down decisions fail to grasp the realities of being a postal worker in rural France.

“We need to drive much more (than the postal workers in the cities)”,  Laurence Cahors, representative in the union CGT Poste, told France 3 last week.

“You cannot compress kilometers.”

But Olivier Marçais, a manager of La Poste en Occitanie, told France 3 that the reorganisations reflect the changing realities of the post service in France. 

According to the national post service, the number of letters sent in France fell from 19 billion in 2008 to almost 9 billion in 2019. In Cassagnes-Béghones, the decline in letter correspondence amounted to 50 percent.

The plunge has been accompanied with a steady surge in the number of package deliveries - 9 to 10 percent a year on average - according to Marçais.

Three years ago, Amazon opened its own logistics platform in Toulouse. At the same time, the number of personal packages have sunk into a level of only 3 percent of the region’s total postal correspondence.

“This is the way the e-commerce giants operate, they go where it pays off,” Marçais said.

For now, there does not seem to be a near end in sight for the postal service conflict, but six postal services in small towns Guilvinec, Treffiagat and Penmarc'h, the northwest of France, announced on Monday, January 13th that they had suspended strike plans after having "discussed with the management."

Read all of out strike coverage here.



Ingri Bergo 2020/01/13 10:55

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