Phone call from the Elysée Palace, convocation by Matignon, hearing on April 8 in the Senate: Philippe Wahl, CEO of La Poste, was placed under very strong pressure by political leaders, who summoned him to quickly increase the number offices opened during the coronavirus crisis. From 1,600 at the start of containment, they will have to increase to 2,500 by the end of the week, then to 5,000 by the end of April out of the 7,700 in the network. The management policy of La Poste, attentive to logistical difficulties and those encountered by its staff, was therefore crossed out with a stroke of the pen by elected officials, from mayors to the President of the Republic. The message is martial: La Poste must maintain its rank as a major public service.
Eric Lombard, managing director of Caisse des Dépôts, which has held the majority of La Poste's capital since the beginning of March, tries to highlight the positive elements of the situation: “The requests underline how much there is a need throughout the country from La Poste, “he explains. But in reality, on the ground and at the group's headquarters, the obligation imposed to ramp up leaves a bitter taste.
The pressure from local elected officials, in particular, was only moderately appreciated: “La Poste must once again become this local public service which contributes to the cohesion and unity of our country”, launched MP LREM of the Ain, Olga Givernet, highlighting for example the difficulties of agricultural cooperatives in receiving their checks for order payments. “But at the same time, the town halls have massively closed the La Poste municipal agencies housed within their walls, reducing their number from 6,500 to 1,000 in rural areas,” points out Aline Guerard, CFDT manager within the group. “We cannot ask a teller to go to the front and take risks for his health, like a soldier that he is not, for 1,600 euros per month,” annoys a manager.
However, La Poste was not idle to reorganize in the crisis. “Most of the activity is not that which can be transferred by teleworking”, underlines Eric Lombard. Of the 200,000 people working in the group, only 40,000 have been able to repatriate to their homes to continue their activities. “If we wonder about the reasons why people did not come to work, explains Philippe Wahl in an interview with AFP, the first factor of absenteeism is childcare. The second element, c is that for a certain number of our postal workers who have health vulnerabilities they have been told: “stay at home so as not to be exposed to the risk”. There are also quarantine systems: in Gennevilliers and Orly , we were forced to close large parcel platforms because there were suspicions and sick people. In that case, we are closing everything! They have since reopened. ” So many measures encouraged by the State when they apply to private companies and even more in its own ministries, but which have been sharply criticized concerning La Poste.
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Attention to social benefits
Simultaneously, as the confinement hardened, Rémy Weber, who heads La Banque postale, and Anne-Laure Bourn, in charge of the network and financial services, very early prepared the expected influx of recipients of social benefits: half -Million people usually flock to post offices for this reason at the beginning of the month. However, on this front, operations went off without a hitch in early April, it is true under the watchful eye oftentimes, the police. Barely a few scuffles took place in Fort-de-France. “It was wise to focus on this essential work very early on. But undoubtedly, during this time, we did not pay sufficient attention to another sensitive subject: the distribution of the press.”
Furious to see the circulation of its newspapers mistreated, the Association of the press of general information, chaired by the influential Jean-Michel Baylet, former minister and CEO of the group La Dépêche, has indeed sent the message to Matignon as soon the second week of containment, requiring that tours reduced to three over the week ramp up. To complete the charge, Philippe Villin, former director general of Figaro, split from a violent platform in Opinion against Philippe Wahl's overall strategy since he took over the presidency of the postal institution. “A deposed general,” says Philippe Villin, now an investment banker, who pleads for a wider privatization of La Poste.
The assault, combined with pressure from the mayors, worked and convinced the government to regain control. By quickly forgetting that he had, until then, been able to congratulate himself on the social management of Philippe Wahl: it had made it possible to prevent the troops of postal workers from joining in close ranks the demonstrations against the pension reform. But it was a long time ago last winter.