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Japan Post's 'Yu-Pack' delivery service feels the strain

Japan Post Holdings Co. President Masatsugu Nagato is seen at a press conference in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward, on Dec. 21, 2017. (Mainichi)

There is currently an increase in the number of domestic parcels being sent via Japan Post Co.'s "Yu-Pack" delivery service, resulting in dissatisfaction among users about late delivery times and staff who can't keep up with the heavy workload.

    One of the key reasons why large numbers of customers are turning to Yu-Pack is that delivery prices offered by Japan Post's rivals such as Yamato Transport Co. and Sagawa Express Co. have recently gone up, yet Japan Post's prices have remained the same.

    In October 2017, parcel delivery heavyweight Yamato increased its prices by 140 yen to 180 yen (excluding consumption tax), depending on the size of the parcel. In November, the second-largest firm in the industry, Sagawa Express, raised its prices by 60 yen to 230 yen (also excluding tax).

    Japan Post, on the other hand, will not increase its Yu-Pack delivery prices until March 2018. As a result of this time lag, Japan Post experienced a 23-percent increase in its parcel volume in October 2017 and a 25-percent increase in November 2017, compared to the corresponding months in 2016. The increase in demand has been a difficult challenge for Japan Post -- given that it is also dealing with delivery staff shortages.

    On Dec. 15, 2017, Japan Post announced that parcels sent via the Yu-Pack service would be about one to two days late over the New Year's period, across the whole of Japan. The firm's PR division explained, "This is the result of expressway traffic jams as well as limits on plane cargo volumes caused by an increase in the number of travelers. The delay is not due to the price hikes carried out by other companies."

    The situation seemed to be troubling a slew of people appearing to be connected to Japan Post. On Twitter for example, there have been tweets such as, "No matter how much work I do, the workload doesn't stop," and, "It's disheartening to think about what needs to be done," as well as, "It is absolutely chaotic on the ground."

    Naoya Himaki, president of Japan Post's Postal Industry Workers Union, explained that there are variations in delivery times depending on region and post office, but the year-end staff shortages have certainly made the situation very challenging.

    "As of September there was expected to be a roughly 8-percent increase in parcel volumes at the end of 2017 compared to 2016, but this figure was adjusted upward to 14 percent in October. There were attempts to recruit more staff in order to cope with the increase in demand, but not enough staff members were found," Himaki revealed.

    It seems that attempts to lure new staff on short-term contracts often result in people opting to work for other companies with better conditions. There have also been efforts to get regular post office employees to work on the Yu-Pack delivery service, but this is just papering over the cracks.

    "The Yu-Pack team receives a relatively high hourly salary. Therefore when regular post office workers are asked to cover, at a lower rate that isn't increased, they inevitably feel disgruntled," Himaki said.

    Meanwhile, at a press conference on Dec. 21, Japan Post Holdings Co. President Masatsugu Nagato revealed that about 13,500 parcels arrived up to half a day late in December 2017 in Tokyo and Osaka, before emphasizing that there were no "critical delays." He also said that recruitment targets concerning delivery staff were just under 100 percent.

    Incidentally, when Japan Post acquired Nippon Express Co.'s Pelican parcel delivery service in the summer of 2010, there were major delivery delays, with more than 300,000 parcels arriving considerably late.

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