Post offices face major shutdown

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The Norwegian postal service (Posten Norge) announced Tuesday that it will shut down 149 post offices by 2014, with only 29 surviving the massive closures in Norway plus one on the Norwegian-controlled Arctic archipelago of Svalbard. The move will affect around 1,000 postal employees and it’s already been approved by the Norwegian Parliament.

Fully 149 of Norway's 179 post offices will be shut down over the next two years. This one, at Solli Plass in Oslo, is among those to be converted to a counter inside a local retail store. PHOTO: Views and News

Norway only has 179 post offices left after earlier shutdowns and creation of the so-called “Post i butikk,” system, in which postal counters have opened up inside varous retail establishments like grocery stores around the country. The parliament voted late Monday night in favour of allowing the postal service to replace 149 of the country’s remaining post offices with postal counters in retail outlets.

A press release from officials at Posten said Norway will be left with 30 post offices, including seven in Oslo, and around 1,400 retail branches.

Only the counties of Troms, Rogaland, Oslo and Akershus are holding on to more than one post office. The Norwegian capital will be left with seven post offices, all of which handle a lot of business customers.

For a list of Norway’s surviving post offices, click here (external link, in Norwegian).

Postal executives claimed that the volume of letters and cards being sent in the mail has declined dramatically, while parcel post has risen because of online shopping. So there’s still a need for postal services, but in a different form, they say.

They also claim that the postal branches open in retail establishments operate in line with store hours, so generally are open much earlier and later than traditional post offices. That, they stress, adds to customer convenience instead of detracting from it.

There remains an air of sadness around the closing of post offices, where many employees are well-acquainted with the customers they serve. “It’s a challenge that many of our capable and loyal employees are being affected by this, but changes are necessary,” Dag Mejdell, chief executive of Posten Norge, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK).

Mejdell said Posten had “good cooperation” with the labour organizations representing employees and hoped the reorganization wouldn’t be too painful. One labour leader said the union Postkom would demand new jobs, “either internally or externally,” for all those affected by the post office closures.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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