Latvian snail mail facing office closures and layoffs

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The non-profit state joint-stock postal services company Latvijas Pasts plans on minimizing the number of employees and closing post office branches in the regional areas of Latvia, Latvijas Pasts Board Chair Mārcis Vilcāns said in an interview on Latvian Radio’s “Krustpuntā” broadcast on January 22.

He admits that post offices are integral to everyday life, so they are working with local municipalities to find compromises. There are criteria for the minimum amount of residents for there to be a working post office, but Vilcāns says many cities don’t meet this criteria. Latvijas Pasts aims to be socially responsible and will continue popular services.

It’s an unfortunate reality that the cost of deliveries is growing, so the company must also increase rates, but Vilcāns thinks that technological processes will implement corrections.

"We’ll do everything to convince people that WhatsApp group greetings are worse than hand-written ones," said Vilcāns.

The board chair emphasizes that fears that traditional post will disappear are unfounded. In 2018 the number of hand-written Christmas greeting cards actually increased. However this year Latvijas Pasts will require an additional 5.8 million euros to compensate for losses in delivering press publications.

As previously reported, Latvijas Pasts has acquired the independent Pasta Stacija parcel terminal chain with its 61 terminals from the Baltcap investment fund for 1.8 million euros, said Vilcāns in August 2019. He said customer surveys showed that people would like to receive and send their parcels through percent terminals.

With the acquisition Latvijas Pasts has added 26 parcel machines in Riga and 35 parcel machines in the vicinity of the capital and other cities in Latvia to the services rendered by more than 370 post offices, 1,300 postmen and 100 couriers, as well as a network of 50 Circle-K fuel stations. Asked about further development plans, Vilcans said that the parcel terminals are just one of the stages. The company has started a procurement to purchase also outdoor parcel terminals.

Also, postal offices will see changes to speed up processes, improve capacity and reduce resources. The company plans to improve accessibility of postal services, and a large part of services will be automated, introducing distance service and self-service opportunities. The company also plans to introduce a number of environmentally-friendly solutions.

The acquisition came as Latvijas Pasts announced what it called "major modernization plans" to include "automation of a number of services, improvement of customer-oriented care and self-service systems, and the introduction of environmentally friendly solutions in everyday work."

A substantial part of the services is going to be automated "in the near future," the company says. The plan involves introducing self-checkouts at the post offices and equipping its call center with virtual assistants, as well as developing a wide range of electronic services. Customers will have the opportunity to use the self-service platform for the making up of postal items, as well as using an improved mobile application, which allows applying for services at the post office remotely and from August also offers redirection of items to a more convenient point of delivery through the mobile phone.

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