Magazine article Management Today

Cutting Room

Magazine article Management Today

Cutting Room

Article excerpt

Consignia's uphill struggle; just six months to e-day; farewell to the fiver -- and to trouser pockets; Milt Friedman's laptop insult to the Fed... Evan Davis at large

Spare a thought for Consignia, or at least its Royal Mail division. It has clearly got its work cut out. For one thing, the new postal regulator has been breathing down its neck, ready to license new competitors and ominously drawing comparisons between its performance and that of the Longbridge car plant. For another, Consignia was alone responsible for 10% of the total working days lost to industrial disputes in the UK in 2000.

And yet, while interviewing the deputy-general secretary of the Communications Workers Union, I couldn't help but notice he pointedly refused to let the word Gonsignia pass his lips, and insisted on sticking to the old Post Office nomenclature.

Talk about a company that has yet to carry the support of its workforce into a new era.

I'm glad to see that excitement is building over one of the world's biggest logistical challenges for years: the conversion of the eurozone to new notes and coins on 1 January 2002. The numbers are quite staggering: the European Central Bank tells me it needs to produce 14 billion banknotes and 50 billion coins, It seems an awful lot, but then you have to remember the Germans are much less disposed to using plastic than we Brits. And I'm told that in Spain, people even pay for petrol in cash (an activity that, given the price, would be almost as impossible over here as buying a house with a suitcase of tenners).

Concern is rife, of course, that e-day will be a disaster. After all, it occurs at a bad time of year -- a busy retail season and on a bank holiday. Pity they didn't pick 15 February, as we did when we turned decimal back in 1971.

The nightmare is getting all the notes and coins out there. Secure transport for distributing the new cash will be overworked -- you need only a bad snowfall and the whole cash supply system will dry up.

And the shops -- which will give change in euros while accepting old money -- will need whopping great floats, because they will be giving new cash out while getting none in. To get the small-denomination euros into circulation, it is the retailers who will have to distribute them. On balance, maybe we should be glad we are out of it until the hard work is done. …

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