The share price in the semi-state owned Bpost dropped by more than 10% when stock markets opened on Thursday, as the effects of unions’ week-long strike spread. But the strike, while a blow to market confidence, was not the only reason for shares to drop below €12 for the first time ever. Bpost just released its quarterly figures, which showed ebitda at €78.9 million, well below the €112.4 million forecast by analysts. The shares dropped by over 10%, and made Bpost the worst-performing share in the Bel20 index of top Belgian companies.
The strike started on Tuesday evening, but instead of being an all-out strike, each day saw a different department affected, starting with sorting offices, then transport and distribution, central services, the call centre and individual mail carriers today. On Monday administration will down tools, and on Tuesday the strike will culminate with the parcels service stopping work.
However while one service is down each day, each has a knock-on effect on the others. A strike at sorting offices means distribution has nothing to distribute, while mail carriers have no mail to carry. And even when the strike is over, Bpost faces the problem of shifting the backlog resulting from the action.
Meanwhile both management and unions announced that they had discussed the situation all day on Wednesday, but no breakthrough had been found, despite a number of “important and concrete proposals”. Talks will begin again on Monday.
And it was revealed how the strike is affecting other sectors of the economy. The funeral business has complained it is unable to send out death notices on behalf of bereaved families to inform friends and relatives of the details of funerals.
At the same time, the courts across the country have complained they are unable to send out legal correspondence such as traffic fines and reminders – of which 18,000 go out every day. The courts have no option but to use Bpost, half-owned by the state, to carry registered letters. When deliveries are made late, the people being fined have less time to pay. And in the cases of summonses to appear as an accused or a witness, court dates may have to be changed because the recipients were not contacted on time.