December 4, 2015

PostNL wants to play neighbourhood watch

Filed under: General by Orangemaster @ 12:07 pm


Postal workers in the Netherlands don’t have it easy. Over the years, they’ve been sacked in the thousands and have seen their wages dwindle as they went from proper employees to ‘forced freelancers’, giving PostNL reasons to pay them less than minimum wage, but still dictating their terms. Postal workers are students, pensioners and moms who work part-time on bikes delivering mail and are the opposite of the unionized postmen of yesteryear.

If making sure they were at the bottom rung of the employment ladder wasn’t enough, their monopolistic employer client PostNL announced that postal workers could also act as neighbourhood cops and report irregularities to the city like bad behaviour, dog poop and trash out on the wrong day. PostNL would probably ask the city for money to do the city’s job and the postal workers would probably have more to do without it being reflected in their earnings. The city of Schiedam is apparently giving this a go until half December to see if it really makes a difference.

Postal workers are to send pics of the offending people, dog poop or bins to the city using their mobile phone with a ‘special app’. What if they refused to do it or just claim they never see anything wrong and get a bit more money for doing their work? They are freelancers after all, but freelancers with no freedom to negotiate terms. Citizens are already able to report irregularities in their neighbourhood, so why get postal workers to do what citizens already do gladly for free? Because PostNL wants to make even more money off the city and can do so while looking like they care about dog poop. I also don’t picture too many people intervening in case of violence: they’ll more likely be a target than anything else and it’s not their ‘job’.

Blogger Luuk Koleman asks why not get the neighbourhood cops to deliver the mail while they do their rounds? That’s because being a neighbourhood cop is an actual job with a salary and a collective labour agreement.

(Links:, koelman)

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November 16, 2015

Postal worker hoards three year’s worth of mail

Filed under: Weird by Orangemaster @ 2:47 pm

The police have found 60 mail bags containing about 13,000 undelivered letters at a Dutch postal worker’s home in Eelde, Drenthe. A local resident filed a formal accusation against PostNL after not having receiving important letters and the police who investigated discovered the mountain of mail at the postal worker’s home.

The worker claimed to be overwhelmed and let her work pile up quite literally from 2012 to August 2015. In 2013 a quick Google search tells us that in Tilburg a postal worker hoarded mail in his shed for three years as well.

Some 20,000 people (lots of women, students and seniors) work mainly part-time delivering mail in the Netherlands, as compared to the image of the full-time possibly unionised mail man. Another quick search using ‘Nederland’ (‘The Netherlands’) and ‘postbode’ (‘mail delivery person’) will regale you with postal workers hoarding mail up and down the land.

Hoarding was not exciting enough for one woman who decided to kick it up a notch and burnt everything to a crisp after just two weeks on the job.


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June 29, 2013

Dutch postal strike ends after reaching an agreement

Filed under: History by Branko Collin @ 3:10 pm

I write this while waiting for a package to be delivered by PostNL which could take a while because the strike at the package delivery division of the former Dutch state monopolist ended yesterday and the delivery people still have a backlog to contend with.

Since its privatisation PostNL seems to have dealt with a constant flow of bad press by changing its name every five years. The company started out as Koninklijke PTT (‘koninklijke’ means ‘royal’). In 1996 it became TPG Post and in 1998 the telephone and mail divisions split into two companies, the former getting the name KPN, the latter becoming TNT, Wikipedia says. TNT later became PostNL. (There are actually solid reasons for all the name changes, but those solid reasons only highlight the company being adrift.)

Nobody seems to know why the former state rail monopolist Nederlandse Spoorwegen (which is still a monopolist, just no longer legally so) messes up all the time, but at least with PostNL there seems to be a couple of reasons. The rise of the Internet appears to have killed off much of the need for mail and the liberalization of the postal market makes it so that when in the past a house was passed by one postal worker a day, now it’s several. PostNL responded to the rising cost of labour by hiring cheaper workers. They gave it a nice spin by labelling the process “[offering] jobs for people distant from the labour market“.

In 2012 PostNL decided to pay their workers for overtime; before that workers were being paid for a mythical number of hours that they should be working according to some bean counter rather than the number of hours they actually worked. In the same year reported that the “Dutch jewellers and goldsmiths’ federation has advised its members to stop using PostNL to deliver packages because so many disappear en route to their destination”.

This week’s strike is fairly unique. PostNL is responsible for delivering about 70% of the packages, but hands those packages over to smaller one-person delivery companies. The people who strike are not employed and therefore not unionised, which means that they strike on their own dime. The largest Dutch union, FNV, decided to help out with the negotiations nevertheless, Omroep West writes. The union is also labelling the workers as ‘schijnzelfstandigen’, self-employed people that in reality work for just one customer without receiving the many benefits and protections employees have under Dutch law. RTL Nieuws reports that online stores have suffered millions in damages because of the strike.

The agreement between PostNL and its freelancers states a new rate for delivery of packages and the setting up of a grievances committee that the freelancers can use to complain about working conditions, reports.

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April 8, 2013

A day in the life of a parcel (video)

Filed under: Design by Branko Collin @ 11:45 am

Ruben van der Vleuten, a Dutch student at the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design, wanted to see what happened to a parcel once it disappeared into the bowels of the Danish postal system.

He then made a parcel with a hidden camera in it and sent it through the mail repeatedly until he got a video that had the camera facing the right way all the time.

Van der Vleuten explains on his website: “The timer circuit was set to make a three-second video every minute and make longer videos while the box was moving, so as to not miss the ‘interesting’ parts.” There’s circuit board porn and technical explanations there and at the Vimeo page.

All that circuitry made the package look suspect. In an interview with Fast Company the designer admits that this had crossed his mind:

The second was based on the pics that showed the open box; that thing really, really looks like a homemade bomb (if homemade bombs look like they do in the movies). “To be honest this was my biggest concern as well,” Van der Vleuten admits. He included a note explaining that this was part of a student project with no criminal intent, but regardless, “Every time, I was bringing it to the post office with sweaty hands.”

(Link: Bright. Photo: crop of a still of the video)

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December 26, 2011

Postcodes and road maps liberated in the Netherlands

Filed under: General by Branko Collin @ 5:27 pm

It took a couple of lawsuits to put their prospective gatekeepers into place, but both the Dutch postal code data and the Dutch road map data have been set free.

Postcodes used to be determined by the Dutch PTT, and when the company privatized they somehow started claiming ownership. When the government started handing out postcodes for free through its kadaster (land registration office), the new company now called sued them, and lost. The judge has determined that starting February 2012, everybody may use the postcode database for free, Gelderlander writes.

Similarly map makers Falkplan lost a lawsuit against the government where the latter published map data via freedom of information requests, Arnoud Engelfriet writes. Falkplan’s angle seems to have been to disallow competition, plain and simple.

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January 11, 2010

TNT to outsource illegible mail recognition

Filed under: General by Branko Collin @ 11:47 am

Former Dutch mail monopolist TNT is testing the outsourcing of bad handwriting recognition by video coding to Mexico, India and The Philippines, Nederlands Dagblad reports.

About 6% of all handwriting on envelopes cannot be recognised by computers, and so a system is currently in place where illegible envelopes are photographed and Dutch employees create a bar code encapsulating the correct address based on that picture.

The Nederlands Dagblad reports that only a few temporary workers will suffer the consequences, but it may be that the Christian newspaper is not telling the whole truth. According to an article in De Volkskrant, sorting mail is done almost exclusively by traditional postal workers, whereas the actual delivery is done by part-time employees.

TNT is suffering the double whammy of a reclining mail volume and the opening of the market to other parties who often pay much lower wages. The company expects to have to fire 11,000 of its 23,000 full-time employees by 2015.

(Photo by FaceMePLS, some rights reserved.)

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August 7, 2009

Roel Smit’s ‘love-core’ catalogue covers

Filed under: Art,Comics by Branko Collin @ 8:48 am

Of all the incorrectly addressed mail I receive, I mind the Large catalogue (“pop merchandising”) the least, because it has got Roel Smit‘s vibrant cartoon art on the cover. Shown here is the latest, the autumn issue.

Frits Jonker, half of the Fool’s Gold team, last year reviewed Smit’s latest book, Rock ‘n’ Roel:

There are some of his early drawings in the book, but he became so much better around 1999. Before then, his work was enthusiastic and well done, but, with a few exceptions, not brilliant. After 1999 every drawing is exceptionally powerful and often so good that it makes me wish that I had put more effort into learning how to draw. All his work is centered around one theme: PUNK. Or rather, Roel’s version of punk: Love-core, as he calls it.

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June 1, 2009


Filed under: Food & Drink by Branko Collin @ 11:48 am

Bills, bills, leaflets, a postcard, mashed potatoes with endive and sausage … if it were up to Amsterdam start-up Mailfood, your mail would never look tastier. The company mails out TV dinners in packages that fit a mailbox, the big advantage being that you don’t have to be home for the delivery. Prices seem reasonable, at EUR 7,50 for the above mentioned dinner, although it doesn’t say whether that includes delivery. The big question is, what will your food look and taste like after it’s been dropped from a meter high and inspected by the cat?

(Link: Bright, Photo of an endive potato mash with meatless sausage by Jasja Dekker, some rights reserved)


December 13, 2008

Postman fired over warning customers about fraudulent bills

Filed under: General by Branko Collin @ 12:31 pm

When a postman from Rotterdam warned his customers about fake Chamber of Commerce bills following a recent spate of them, he got fired by his employer Sandd, according to Dutchnews. Having read about the fraudulent bills in the paper, he recognized them on his daily route:

“I told my delivery manager, but the reply I got was that we only deliver the mail, and that we cannot and may not check the contents,” postman Rick Timmer (51) told Parool (Dutch). Timmer then went on to warn the companies along his route of his own initiative, sometimes even putting warning stickers on letters to people he could not reach in person.

Sandd thinks Timmer has violated the secrecy of correspondence, a legal right that’s enshrined in the constitution and that holds that letters may not be read while being delivered. In this light the support that Timmer got is a bit shocking: Sandd competitor TNT even offered him a new job, according to Telegraaf. Does this mean that TNT does read our letters? Because that is in my opinion the message they are now sending. Telegraaf mentions that Timmer did not open the letters.

Photo by Hans Vink, some rights reserved.

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June 25, 2007

Dutch films arrive 34 years later

Filed under: Film,Weird by Orangemaster @ 2:15 pm

After 34 years, educational films about the Netherlands arrived at the Holland museum in the town of Holland, Michigan. The first box contained the English language educational films “Jan: Boy of the Netherlands”, “Rotterdam Europort: gateway to Europe” and “The Netherlands: blueprint of an urban society”. The second box contained the Dutch films “Zeilen en Holland: terra fertilis”. According to the manager of the local post office, someone found the boxes and finally decided to post them.

The boxes were sent to Michigan in 1973 by the University of Wisconsin and the University of Texas. Both universities had borrowed the films from the Netherlands Information Service (now the Holland museum), which existed from 1936 to 1974 in the town of Holland, founded by Dutch immigrants.

(Link: Bisnis)

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