The national post operator, Poczta Polska, caused disappointment and frustration among its clients as countless gift packages and greetings cards failed to reach their recipients in time for Christmas.
The seasonal surge in the number of parcels together with staff shortages has left stacks of neglected mail, with the result that the company has been increasingly losing out to competitors.
The growth of online orders has led the number of parcels to rise enormously. Though the peak evidently comes at Christmas time, Poczta states that the traffic caught them by surprise. According to Michal Dziewulski from the central post office in Warsaw, this past year brought ten times the usual load.
During the weeks prior to Christmas, one of the sorting departments in Gdansk received 10,000 parcels daily. Shockingly, categorization of parcels is still carried out by hand, as it was in the 1950s. Automation is not expected to be introduced to the establishment for another few months.
Due to the huge rise, post office workers focused on sorting parcels, leaving bags full of registered mail unsorted for days.
Despite the extra effort to manage with parcels, the situation did not improve and parcels sent even weeks before Christmas, many containing presents for close ones, were not received in time.
Yet, according to the Office of Electronic Communications (Urzad Komunikacji Elektronicznej, UKE), the Christmas traffic is not an exception, considering that Poczta constantly has problems in carrying out the necessary tasks to deliver mail within the deadline. According to the latest examination carried out by UKE, less than 60 percent of priority parcels make it to the recipient on time.
Poczta used to provide timely service. Three years ago, it successfully delivered 93 percent of priority mail, and 91 percent of regular mail.
However, Poczta underwent transformation in 2005, when the company changed its management structure and withdrew close to 500 workers from head positions.
In addition, postal delivery workers went on strike at the end of 2006. Now short of workers, Poczta is prepared to employ new staff, though few want to take on the job on account of low wages.
While some courier competitors also experienced difficulty, having to either decline business from individual customers or accept more packages than they could handle, Poczta turned to hiring temporary workers in order to help with sorting and distribution, despite negative financial effects. This solution, however, still did not prevent delays.
Though Poczta has not been officially privatized, the rapid rise in the number of private operators in Poland has forced it to compete with companies such as TNT, DHL, and new local businesses such as InPost from Krakow. Currently, like most other European postal carriers, Poczta holds a monopoly on letters weighing less than 50 grams.
However, the EU aims towards full competition in the postal market by 2011. Afraid rapid liberalization would result in weaker customer service and huge job losses, Poczta is making a proposal to move the target to 2012.