Italy provides a more recent example. Despite being privatised after Royal Mail, in 2014, the business has flourished. Parcels are now delivered seven days a week. Since being floated it has overtaken, rather than fallen behind, its rivals.
Royal Mail, meanwhile, is looking to shorten its current six-day delivery schedule when it comes to letters.
Matteo Del Fante, the chief executive and former JP Morgan investment banker, says: “The health emergency turned out to be an opportunity of growth particularly in two areas of activity: e-commerce and digital, with the acceleration of trends [previously] envisaged.
“Poste Italiane has succeeded with the diversification of the business model…transforming into a large ‘Amazon’ of logistics, financial services, and digital payment systems.”
Williams hopes he can convince the CWU, whose bosses did not respond to a request for comment, of the need for urgent action. But this extends beyond greater automation.
Last chance for last-mile?
So-called “last-mile optimisation”, where technology is used to plan routes more efficiently is treated with suspicion by posties.
The prospect of “Big Brother watching over them” – computers tracking their every move – is unappealing to many who have long enjoyed freedom and independence that has historically come with the job.