The future of the daily mail service is in jeopardy as Australia Post faces forecast losses totalling billions of dollars, with 900 jobs set to be cut as early as Tuesday.
One of the country's oldest companies, Australia Post is forecast to go heavily into the red if it continues to offer its failing letters business.
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Australia Post to axe 900 jobs
Hundreds of Australia Post workers are set to lose their jobs as the struggling company forecasts record losses. Nine news.
Its 32,000 staff are expected to be told of the job cuts on Tuesday, with most of the cuts to be in Melbourne and Sydney.
The everyday home delivery of standard-priced mail is expected to be another casualty of the crisis.
If Australia Post wins sought-after approval to change government regulations, standard mail will be delivered only two or three days a week, instead of the present five days.
The Sun-Herald has been told that private modelling has estimated Australia Post will lose $7.1 billion through to 2022-23 if the business continues on its present path.
Losses in the letters delivery business are forecast to be $12 billion over the same period.
Such grim forecasts convinced Abbott government ministers that they should not sell Australia Post, which was founded in 1809.
Australia Post's 900 job cuts are expected to save the company about $90 million a year in salaries. The redundancies are understood to be in "non-customer-facing" jobs, including management, supervisory, administrative roles and IT staff.
About 70 per cent of the job losses will come from Melbourne, where the head office is located. About 15 per cent of cuts will be in Sydney. A smaller number of jobs will disappear in Brisbane and elsewhere.
A spokesman for Australia Post said: ''Australia Post has made it very clear that it is confronting dramatic change due to the impact of declining revenues in our letters service. It is already responding to those changes and is a much leaner organisation than it was three years ago. The net impact of these and other changes we need to make is still being worked through but supporting our people through these changes remains our top priority."
Australia Post executives have long lobbied the government to reduce its five-day mail service to three days as the company is required by regulation to deliver five days a week to 98 per cent of homes and businesses across the country.
The job cuts - which follow a freeze on external recruitment last year - will be sold to staff and the public as being necessary to pay for the many "innovations" announced by the company. These include introducing Saturday parcel deliveries, Saturday express post services and extended weekend trading.
Australia Post chief executive Ahmed Fahour had been warning colleagues and the government of the company's impending financial crisis unless urgent reforms were taken.
Mr Fahour, who was paid $4.8 million last year, said in a speech last month: "The unfortunate reality is that our regulated letters business is now bleeding money - as the community shifts away from letters and towards digital forms of communication. If we wait another 12 months it might be too late as the large losses from the letters will overwhelm the organisation."
Mr Fahour added: "Without change and reform, Australia Post will not be able to survive.''
Australia Post's most urgent problem is that while the population is growing and people are building more homes and apartments - thereby increasing the spread and cost of deliveries - they are also sending far fewer letters.
About 1 billion fewer letters have been sent over the past five years, which has led to mounting losses in the company's regulated letters business. The letters business lost $122 million in 2010-11, $187 million the following year and $218 million last financial year.
Australia Post has consistently returned dividends to government since corporatisation in 1989. Last financial year's dividend was $142 million but the federal budget last month forecast dividends would shrink to zero within a few years.
Union calls for retraining
A spokesman for Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull declined to comment.
The postal workers' union has called on Australia Post to offer retraining to any of the 900 workers whose jobs are reportedly on the line due to heavy losses.
The Communications, Electrical and Plumbing Union (CEPU) says reforms are unavoidable but the company is still turning a profit.
''It's a terrible blow to lose jobs on this scale, but Australia Post is a big and evolving organisation and we'll be making the case that new roles should be found for people who want to continue their service,'' CEPU postal and telecommunications secretary Jim Metcher said on Sunday.
''The decline in volume of small letter delivery, Australia Post's traditional service, does need to be addressed.
''But there is significant growth in new and emerging parts of the business, like parcel delivery.''
Sale not on the cards
Finance Minister Mathias Cormann has ruled out selling off Australia Post for now.
''Australia Post is obviously facing some structural challenges, job losses are always disappointing but the truth is that Australians write fewer letters,'' he told Sky News on Sunday.
While the government had considered the Commission of Audit recommendation to privatise Australia Post, it didn't think the time was right.
''I'm not going to rule out what may or may not happen in the future, but right now we've made a decision that it's not sensible to proceed with a possible sale of Australian Post,'' Senator Cormann said.
Acting Prime Minister Warren Truss said Australia Post faced a crisis in relation to falling revenue from standard letter deliveries.
''They are doing well, obviously in parcel delivery ... but that represents a substantial change in the nature of the business,'' Mr Truss told ABC TV.
He said maintaining mail services in remote and regional communities should be a priority.