A steering committee addressed Tuesday a legal conundrum which has for many years led to postal services being kept running while under-utilized in some areas of the country, while they are over-taxed in more populous locations such as Tallinn. The proposed rationalization will reportedly not spell post office closures, however.
The group, consisting of representatives of state-owned postal carrier Omniva/Eesti Post, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and the Competition Authority (Konkurentsiamet), found that postal service availability should be measured by its supported and supporting populace, rather than by number and density of post offices.
The working party also agreed that no distinction would be made between staffed post offices and parcel machines, as had been the case up to now.
Eesti Post spokesperson: Streamlining does not equate to cuts
Kaja Sepp, head of communications and marketing at Eesti Post, stressed that this did not mean post office closures in rural areas, and possibly even the reverse of that.
"I would rather see it as an option that in fact the postal network needs to be made denser, especially in rural areas," she noted.
This would require large, fully-functional post offices in county towns, while smaller outlets should be created in other towns and villages, serving local libraries, stores, craftspeople and others.
"These are places where individuals can pick up their parcel, buy and do basic things. We think hat they could be supported by a parcel machine," Sepp added.
Political will needed, early signs encouraging
An agreement in principle had been reached by the parties at Wednesday's meeting, she added.
She said: "The first step is to fix the current situation and agree on how we can measure availability and quality. This does not make the situation either better or worse, but it provides a guideline under which change might be understood in the future, as to whether availability has improved or worsened."
Currently, many Tallinn post offices work only 10 a.m.-6 p.m. weekdays, making it hard for those that work full-time to use the facilities. A post office at Harku, west of the capital, works only Tuesdays to Saturdays, for three hours per day.
Meanwhile, in some locations the postal network is congested while in others it is very underused, ERR reports,
The working party will look at these issues and use metrics such as parcel, letter and periodical volumes, average distance of customers from point of sale, and speed and quality of services.
Sepp added that change also depends on political will, with the key piece of legislation, the Postal Act, requiring amending, though she said that political feedback had been good so far.
Overall a more flexible system was needed, even delivering to the door in outlying areas to a greater extent than currently possible, as well as as many as 1,000 postal machines rolled-out nationwide in villages of 150 or more inhabitants, Sepp said.
Editor: Andrew Whyte