Portugal’s CTT postal service
Photo: Filipe Lima/Open Media

Portugal’s CTT postal service in disarray

Huge delays and chronic workforce shortage among main issues

CTT – Portugal’s privatised postal service – is in the hot seat over accusations that it does not deliver mail on time due to a chronic workforce shortage, having even resorted to hiring mail carriers “illegally” to address the issue.

The whistle was blown by the National Union of Postal and Telecommunications Workers (SNTCT) on Monday, just one day before national tabloid Correio da Manhã ran a cover story on how the postal service receives 79 complaints per day.

CTT received the most complaints out of any company in Portugal in the first quarter of 2022, CM reports, with around 7,100 complaints lodged on online complaint portal Portal da Queixa and consumer watchdog Deco.

“Post offices set up in chapels. Mail carriers hired on a daily basis. Serious delays in mail delivery. Shortage of workers” – these are among the main issues highlighted by the union, reports TSF radio.

One of the complaints lodged is that CTT justifies its failure to deliver mail by claiming that no one was at the address to receive it.

The union president Vítor Narciso told TSF: “There are no postal workers, mail cannot be delivered, and someone – a boss or supervisor – then writes in the distribution centre’s IT system that the receiver ‘did not answer’.”

Other complaints focus on huge delays, issues with customs clearance and complaints that go unresolved or unaddressed.

The union estimates that CTT is over 1,000 employees short and says it has been resorting to service providers.

“In these cases, it is very frequent for workers to not receive a pay slip and get paid in cash in envelopes at cafés and petrol stations,” Narciso said.

TSF reports that CTT has faced issues with the law in some cases and has even been forced to hire some of the temporary postal workers it resorted to.

Meanwhile, the union laments that ANACOM (Portugal’s national regulatory authority for the communications sector) has lost its power to act after the last CTT concession contract was signed.

“Now it only evaluates and hands the cases over to the government,” Narciso said.

Another issue highlighted by the union is the lack of post offices, with some working out of stationery shops, butchers and even a chapel.

CTT spokesperson Miguel Salema Garção has denied that the company has “committed any irregularities” in the hiring of mail carriers from service providers.

He also said that CTT is paying for a service when it hires these temporary mail carriers, and that they ultimately answer to their employers and not CTT.

Garção also downplayed the reports of CTT’s mail delivery failures, saying “it is normal” that they occur when “millions of letters and objects” are to be delivered.

Local resident denounces undelivered mail

The Resident has been contacted by Loulé resident Helga Hampton who confirmed some of the issues reported in the national press this week.

“It is a terrible situation. We just went three weeks without having mail delivered to our home,” Helga told us.

The lack of mail delivery prompted Helga to visit her local post office, where she was told that the issue had to be brought up at the local CTT distribution centre in Loulé.

After waiting in line for 45 minutes at the distribution centre, Helga was told that she had to go next door to the warehouse to ask for her mail. After knocking on the warehouse’s door, a CTT employee greeted her and asked her yet again to wait while he searched for her mail.

“He returned 25 minutes later with four letters,” Helga told us, adding that she suspects that some of her mail may have been lost.

“When I asked him why they weren’t delivering the mail, he said they did not have enough staff and that nobody wanted to work for CTT,” she said.

Helga was also able to peak into the warehouse, which she said was filled with what looked like piles of undelivered mail. She added that many of her neighbours have been dealing with the same issues of undelivered mail.

CTT replies:

The Resident contacted CTT which confirmed the “existence of constraints in some areas of the Algarve, due to a significant increase in Covid-19 infections and unexpected (work) absences”.

The postal service also confirmed it is looking to hire new employees in mainland Portugal as well as the Azores and Madeira archipelagos but has faced difficulties doing so.

“In order to mitigate this disruption, some contingency measures have been adopted, namely strengthening human resources,” an official CTT source told us.

“CTT is currently implementing a series of measures, which involve more investment and strengthening its operation. The main priority is customer satisfaction, whether they are individual customers or companies.

“Thus, we work daily to continuously improve our activity and remain committed to providing the best service to our customers,” the source adds.

CTT hopes the situation will be “rectified soon” and apologises for any inconvenience these disruptions may have caused.

By Michael Bruxo
[email protected]