‘Wage rise partly the cause of disappointing year PostNL’

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PostNL has had a disappointing year. The amount of parcels to be processed is decreasing, as is the turnover, partly as a result of what the postal company itself calls ‘volatile market conditions’. But the wage increases agreed last year also have an impact on the margin, according to CFO Pim Berendsen. ‘We have allowed wages to rise sharply, we cannot transfer those costs to higher prices for our end customers.’

Turnover for the first months of 2023 amounted to 783 million euros, a decrease of 3 percent on an annual basis. The amount of processed packages fell by 6.5 percent in that period. After deduction of costs, the profit amounted to 4 million euros. That is considerably less than a year earlier, when the profit was still 34 million euros.

Nevertheless, the financial chief is satisfied with the first quarter. “The results are better than our own expectations and also better than the market had expected. But you can see that the volumes are falling compared to last year.’

Covid, Ukraine

The declining volumes are the result of the ‘little bit of covid’ in the first quarter of last year. ‘But mainly because of the outbreak of the war in Ukraine,’ says Berendsen. ‘We are therefore pleased that we also saw positive volume development in March of this year, compared to a year ago. We’re going in the right direction.’

Berendsen foresees ‘volatile market conditions with a lot of macroeconomic uncertainty’ for the coming quarters. In addition, the company has to deal with absenteeism and a tight labor market. ‘That occasionally causes some occupation problems. We are working hard on solutions.’

THE HAGUE 25-04-2023. A PostNL employee at work in the center of The Hague. Many delivery drivers are struggling with rising petrol prices and a high workload. ©ANP/Hollandse-Hoogte/ Owen O’Brien (ANP / Owen O’Brien)

Despite this, the company maintains previous expectations. “We are cautiously optimistic and today reconfirm the previously given outlook for the result of a profit of 70 to 100 million euros at the end of 2023.”

Pay raises

The postal company has to reorganize to reduce costs. According to Berendsen, agreements are now being made about this ‘per business unit’. ‘We are working out those plans in detail and we are trying to provide clarity about this to the teams and people concerned as soon as possible. We want to have concrete plans by the end of May, progress is good and we are doing this as well and as carefully as possible.’

In the collective labor agreements concluded at the end of last year and the beginning of this year, wages have risen sharply. The consequences of this are noticeable, says Berendsen. ‘We have allowed wages to rise sharply, which is also one of the reasons why last year’s results lagged somewhat. We are not able to transfer those costs to higher prices for our end customers. And so that has an impact on the margin.’

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