Meretz MK asks Shas leader to help approve postal rate changes

The Israel Postal Company is losing money due to non-competitive bulk mail rates from private companies.

Meretz MK Avshalom Vilan has asked Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef to take Communications Minister (Shas) MK Ariel Atias to a rabbinical court for refusing to approve changes to postal rates, thereby triggering Israel Postal Company sanctions that harm the periphery. Vilan said that the sanctions - which have halted mobile postal service to outlying areas, including communities under rocket fire from Gaza - and preventing collection of National Insurance Institute old-age and child allotments - are causing great distress. The sanctions were instituted a week ago by the union of postal company workers, which fears that hundreds of employees will be dismissed because the company is losing money due to non-competitive bulk mail rates from private companies. Postal Company director-general Avi Hochman has been struggling for a year against the Communications Ministry, which prefers to institute efficiency measures in the company to changes in postal rates. In addition to preventing mobile post office service and NII allocations, postal workers have also been refusing to change ownership of vehicles and to collect fees and value added taxes for the government. Meanwhile, Hochman said Sunday that the new reform in bank fees "highlights again the need for an independent bank like the Postal Bank as an alternative to commercial banks. The reform deepens the social gap and harms the lower socioeconomic levels. I call on the government to finalize the Postal Bank Law and act to ensure that the Israel Postal Company's bank be able to function independently and allow customers to enjoy from competition in banking." Although the reform "takes an important step forward" by cancelling may commercial bank fees, the new fees are high, Hochman said, thus costing bank customers more to manage their accounts. Some 180 different bank fees will be cancelled in July out of the total of 305, which apply to credit, debit cards, securities and regular checking accounts. The Israel Postal Bank charges no fees in many cases, and much lower ones than the commercial banks in others.