Solidarity Magazine » CWU/Post Office http://solidaritymagazine.org Fri, 01 Mar 2013 19:29:19 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.8 Royal Mail is not delivering http://solidaritymagazine.org/2011/06/royal-mail-is-not-delivering/ http://solidaritymagazine.org/2011/06/royal-mail-is-not-delivering/#comments Tue, 21 Jun 2011 09:35:26 +0000 http://solidaritymagazine.org/?p=1592 Continue reading ]]> As profits dive, it’s clear this management isn’t modernising, it’s running the company into the ground – but why?

Roy Mayall

 

Royal Mail’s profits fell from £180m in 2009 to £39m in 2010, a drop of around 78%. That sounds pretty disastrous, and is one of the reasons given for the impending privatisation of the company.

 

However, when you start to look more closely at the figures you begin to realise that all is not what it seems. For a start, the company did still make a profit, which is unique among public services. We don’t expect the police to make a profit, or the fire service or the NHS, do we? And I suspect that most of the British public aren’t at all worried if the Royal Mail makes a profit or not, as long as they get their letters delivered on time.

Historically the Royal Mail’s profits were used to subsidise the Post Office which is also an important public service. All of that will change, of course, when the Royal Mail is privatised and the link between the Royal Mail and the Post Office is broken. Once the Royal Mail is privatised, the Post Office will have to go its own way, and don’t be at all surprised when more and more rural post offices start to close, and the post office counter service becomes a small adjunct of Tesco, squeezed between the deli, the electrical counter and the pharmacy.

 

This shows you the mechanism by which the privatisation agenda operates. It splits a unified service into its constituent parts, hiving off the profitable bits, while keeping the unprofitable bits in the public domain. This is in effect a form of public subsidy. That which can make a profit is given over to the spivs and profiteers of the private sector, while the rest of us carry the can for the bits of the economy that can’t make a profit, thus threatening not only the particular services involved, but also the cohesion and unity of society as a whole.

 

Many blame the breakdown in Royal Mail profits on the incursion of new technology into the communications market. Or, as the Daily Mirror put it: “Royal Mail profits smashed by competition and Facebook.

 

This is simply not true. Most of the letters that people sent are still being sent. We might send birthday greetings to people we don’t know very well via Facebook, but how many of you have replaced the Christmas card list with a Facebook list in the last few years? Very few, I would suggest; none but the very young.

 

When you look at the real reason why profits are down it has virtually nothing to do with Facebook. It has everything to do with the Royal Mail spending vast amounts of money on a so-called modernisation programme that simply doesn’t work. £400m was spent on new machinery that actually slows down delivery.

 

We have two mail deliveries these days, instead of one. One is first thing in the morning, the way it used to be. The second is at about 9.20am in our office, which means full-time workers are now forced to take a break to wait for the lorry. So how is this “modernisation” exactly? By what process is it decided that a new machine which is slower than an old machine is actually more modern, just because you bought it more recently, or that having workers sitting around eating sandwiches is more efficient than having them delivering mail?

 

Millions more have been spent on a fleet of new vans to replace the bikes the Royal Mail intends to scrap. How crazy is that? To replace the world’s most energy-efficient machine, bar none with the polluting, inefficient internal combustion engine dependent on oil from the war-torn Middle East. To replace a tried and tested method of delivery in use for over 100 years, with an untried and untested method, that, everywhere it has been brought in, has been disastrous, as I’m sure people in a number of towns will testify.

 

Something very strange is happening here. It takes a radical redefinition of the English language to describe any of this as “modernisation”.

 

Also we have brand new uniforms. Who on Earth thought of that? Every single postal worker in the UK is being issued with a brand new set of clothes. New shirts, new trousers, new jackets, new caps, new waterproofs. And how much, exactly, did this cost, the refitting of an entire workforce? In this time of austerity and cutbacks, it seems, the Royal Mail judges fashion sense a more important issue than getting the mail delivered on time.

Finally, it is closing down hundreds of local delivery offices all over the country and relocating them to major city centre sites.

 

All of this is being done in the name of savings. It will cost less to maintain a single centralised office than a number of smaller offices. That’s the theory at least. But is it actually true? I’ve had my calculator out again and I’ve been working it out.

 

There are 50 workers each in the two offices in our area that are due to close – 100 altogether. It will take about half an hour each way to drive to and from the city. All of this has to be done in work time of course. We’re not counting the journeys each postal worker has to make to get to work and back. So that’s an hour of Royal Mail time spent getting us to and from the start of our rounds. We earn £8.86 an hour, so it will cost the company £886 a day, which is £5,316 a week, or £276,432 a year. Knock off days off and holidays, and the figure still comes in at around £250,000 a year. That’s a quarter of a million pounds spent on just getting the workforce to the start of the round every day.

How is that a “saving” exactly?

 

What kind of accountant adds a quarter of a million pounds to your wages bill and then describes it as a saving?

 

This is not to speak of the extra pollution of having hundreds of vans spluttering about during the rush hour or the cost in maintenance, petrol, tax and insurance, of running a fleet of vans. It’s not to speak of the traffic chaos in the city or parking problems around the new joint delivery office. It’s not to speak of the inconvenience for customers of having to travel eight miles to pick up their undelivered mail. According to the Royal Mail’s own figures this will be in the region of 100 a day in each of the two offices. I will leave it up to you to work out the figures on that.

 

All of this can only lead to one of two conclusions: either Royal Mail management is grossly incompetent, or it is running down the company on purpose, for some end that the rest of us have yet to be informed about.

 

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Job loss figure could spark strike ballot http://solidaritymagazine.org/2011/06/job-loss-figure-could-spark-strike-ballot/ http://solidaritymagazine.org/2011/06/job-loss-figure-could-spark-strike-ballot/#comments Thu, 16 Jun 2011 16:52:44 +0000 http://solidaritymagazine.org/?p=1585 Continue reading ]]> 16th June 2011

Responding to claims made by Royal Mail Chief Executive Moya Greene in an interview in today’s Daily Mail that 40,000 jobs need to be cut to make the company financially viable, the CWU expresses extreme concern and warns that cuts could lead to strike action.

Dave Ward, CWU deputy general secretary, said: “This is the first that we’ve heard of plans for further job losses and we’re deeply disappointed that Moya Greene has chosen to put this information out through the media instead of discussing staffing issues with the union direct.

“Royal Mail claims that 65,000 jobs have been cut since 2002. We would question whether the company could continue to function as the main mail delivery company if further job cuts are pushed through. The impact on operations and services would be severe.

There is no agreement over these job cuts and the announcement puts the whole programme of modernisation at risk. We will protect our members’ jobs and conditions of work and any hint of compulsory redundancies would lead to an immediate nationwide ballot for industrial action.”

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Royal Mail – fighting job losses and closures http://solidaritymagazine.org/2011/06/royal-mail-%e2%80%93-fighting-job-losses-and-closures/ http://solidaritymagazine.org/2011/06/royal-mail-%e2%80%93-fighting-job-losses-and-closures/#comments Sat, 11 Jun 2011 11:27:27 +0000 http://solidaritymagazine.org/?p=1567 Continue reading ]]>

Around 3,500 postal workers in four large London workplaces will probably be on strike in the next few weeks after voting 4-1 for industrial action against proposed job losses. Royal Mail plans to close the mail centres at Nine Elms in South London and Bow in east London as well as the West End Delivery Office at Rathbone Place (the largest in Europe, delivering to the W1 and WC postal districts).

All these operations will go to the Mount Pleasant depot resulting, on Royal Mail’s plans, in nearly 600 redundancies.

Closure of mail centres has been going on for years, and one of the contentious issues in the agreement which ended the 2009 strike was a formal review of the future of mail centres. Royal Mail committed itself to a consultation procedure, rather than a unilateral decision, while the CWU committed itself to supporting the outcome of the consultation. There was also a commitment to avoiding compulsory redundancies, usually through a combination of voluntary redundancy and workers being able either to “follow the work” to wherever it was going to be sorted in the future or relocation to another workplace.

The crucial issue with the London dispute is that these closures are likely to lead to compulsory redundancies. Royal Mail is refusing to give a commitment of no compulsion and it is recognised that if they succeed in this instance it will give the green light throughout Royal Mail.

Crucial to victory, when strike action takes place, will be a refusal of other mail centres to sort post diverted from the centres on strike, as well as local London delivery offices refusing to deliver it.

Management will undoubtedly attempt to circumvent the effects of the strike. It is therefore extremely positive that the union’s postal conference unanimously passed a resolution which demanded that no one “should handle any of the work from London by un-agreed  diversions”. It also declared that “there will be an industrial action ballot of the whole postal membership if Royal Mail make any postal worker compulsory redundant.” The refusal to handle diverted work could lead to widespread unofficial – unballoted – action, since management may well suspend workers who do so, leading to walkouts.

What will be crucial is whether local union reps – with the backing of regional and national officials – argue for and win support for this policy. Many are sceptical about the union being up for a serious fight given its record from previous disputes. The low turnout in the ballot in some of the London workplaces would seem to reflect this scepticism.

This dispute is a major step forward, given the national union has previously accepted the closure of mail centres – and delivery offices – without serious opposition.

It still has accepted that jobs will be lost, only insisting that this be done by a voluntary rather than compulsory process.

Everyone knows that there is a fine line between voluntary and compulsory redundancy – if you make the situation unbearable, people will take the money and run, even if this leaves them with an uncertain future. And, of course, if not enough people (in management’s view) are willing to go voluntarily, then they get rid of them by other means, either by invoking disciplinary measures, or compulsory redundancies.

The importance of this dispute also goes beyond the immediate issue of job losses. Royal Mail has a programme of closing offices, both mail centres and delivery offices, in order to sell them off. The only reason the West End Delivery Office was included in the London mail centre review is because it is based on prime property, just off Oxford Street. It has already been consolidating delivery offices in West and North West London.

This means not only more work for postal workers – further to travel to work and deliveries further from the office – but also a worsened service for customers.

Indeed many of the mail centre closures that have already taken place have led to regular “failures” (not all the day’s work being done in the allotted time).

The fight over job losses also has to be seen as part of the fight against the government’s privatisation plans. A victory for the workers would make Royal Mail a far less attractive deal for any prospectivPete Firmine buyer.

Pete Firmin

 

 

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The Unsorting Office http://solidaritymagazine.org/2010/10/the-unsorting-office/ http://solidaritymagazine.org/2010/10/the-unsorting-office/#comments Sun, 17 Oct 2010 12:00:40 +0000 http://solidaritymagazine.org/?p=915 Continue reading ]]> Roy Mayall 13 October 2010

It’s been a bad few weeks at our delivery office. First of all Vince Cable announced that the Royal Mail was going to be privatised. Then, at one of our weekly ‘Work Time Listening and Learning’ meetings, the line manager announced that our delivery office is going to close. We are going to have to move to the main sorting office in the next town, seven or eight miles away. He couldn’t say when this was going to happen. All he could say was that ‘plans are underway’.


We didn’t have time to ask him any questions about it, however, as two ‘lead planners’ from the region had come to tell us about the review of working methods they are undertaking in our office.

First up, our bikes are going to be scrapped and replaced by lightweight trolleys and shared vans: two posties to a van, working an enlarged round between them.

Working hours are changing too. Nine Byzantine schemes are being suggested for us to choose from, varying from nine-day fortnights – four people to work three routes, working eight hours, forty minutes a day – to a four-day week in a three-week rotation, with a nine-hour, forty-five minute day, using three people to cover two deliveries. Er…?

They will also measure the speed at which we slot the mail into our frames before setting out on our rounds, giving us targets to make us do it faster.

The planners were quick to point out that the main purpose of the review was to take man-hours out of the office, and to make rounds bigger. In other words, the new, shared rounds will be larger than two old rounds, meaning more work for posties, and less time to do it in.

One of my colleagues said: ‘Surely if the office is going to move, then journey times will have to be added in and we’re going to have to go through this all over again?’

Yes, the planner said. Once we move there will be another revision.

What about privatisation?’ I said. ‘We are going to be privatised soon and TNT are going to move in and will want to do things their way.’

I can’t comment on privatisation,’ the planner said.

Part of the revision process will involve one-to-one meetings between the planners and postal workers. The new rounds are being drawn up using a piece of computer software called Pegasus/Geo-route, which depicts a two-dimensional world. The aim of the meetings is to factor in the terrain and other hazards. Every hill, every footpath, every short cut, every gate, every stairwell, every block of flats, every back door entrance is to be recorded. This is valuable information. It is being collected now, at public expense, but it will be inherited by whichever private company takes over. I wonder if they will be charged for that?

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The mood in the Royal Mail sorting office http://solidaritymagazine.org/2010/09/the-mood-in-the-royal-mail-sorting-office/ http://solidaritymagazine.org/2010/09/the-mood-in-the-royal-mail-sorting-office/#comments Thu, 16 Sep 2010 20:29:52 +0000 http://solidaritymagazine.org/?p=844 Continue reading ]]> Vince Cable has spoken: Royal Mail is to be privatised. My colleagues wonder whether things can possibly get any worse. Roy Mayall

    I heard about the proposed privatisation of the Royal Mail on Saturday. One of my work mates sent me a text. It was my long weekend, so yesterday was the first chance I’d had to gauge the response in the office. It wasn’t very good.

    People are in two minds about the news that Vince Cable has decided to start selling off the service after Richard Hooper’s report calling for “urgent action”. A common quip was “well, it couldn’t be worse”. We’ve seen a marked reduction in the quality of service in recent years, and the general view of the management is that it is worse than useless. That’s not the term most posties would pick: the usual word is “shit”.

    We were all out in the smoking shed, having a last break before heading out on our rounds. Dennis said: “Are we a business or a service? The public still think it’s a service, but the management treat it like a business. If it’s sold off it will just be a business and the service won’t count at all.”

    Bob said: “The only way to modernise is to go back. We’re handing the business over to the competition. We have to start earlier. It used to be people would get their mail in the morning while they were eating their breakfast. Soon it’ll be coming while they’re eating their tea.”

    Jim said: “I knew this was going to happen. They’ve been winding us down just to sell us off. It’s been on the cards for years.”

    Bill said: “I can’t wait to be taken over by Mothercare.” Everyone laughed.

    But there’s real gloom. People are worried about the future. We all know – regardless of what Hooper or Cable might say – that our workload is increasing. We have more junk mail. More brochures. More magazines. More bulk-mail advertising addressed to “The Householder” or “The Occupier”. Most of all, more packets – 30 to 40 every day on most rounds. Online shopping has really taken off, and a large percentage of it is being lugged around on our shoulders.

    We also know that the main drain on the Royal Mail’s profit base is us subsidising the private mail companies by carrying their mail for them. They’ve extracted all the profitable trade from the banks and utilities, but once it comes to actually sticking it through letter boxes, that’s our job. It still lands on our frames for sorting and carrying. What chance do we have? We do the work, they take the profit.

    Yet the last time I tried to call a meeting about the future, only three people turned up. We’re a soft office. After the last strike, a deal was reached between the Communications Workers Union and Royal Mail that caused real anger. Quite a lot of the guys saw it as a sellout and left the union then. They felt so betrayed. If the CWU call for a strike over privatisation, a large number of people in our office at least probably won’t come out again – even though the main worry is privatisation might mean a reduction in our terms and conditions.

    Jerry said: “My first thought was it might be better. But then I think it’s really down to job cuts, and to slimming down the business. It’s going to be a worse service and more expensive for customers.”

    Jim said: “They want us all to be on the minimum wage. Give it 12 months. They want a casual workforce. They’re moving towards dropping the bags off at people’s houses for them to deliver and no more fulltime jobs.”

    George said: “That’s the end. They’ll terminate the contract. We’ll be given the option: change the contract or leave. The younger ones will leave because they’ll be able to find other work. The older ones won’t be able to leave.”

    My work mates know who I am. I told them I was writing a story for the Guardian. What did they want to tell readers about the mood in the office? “It’s suicidal,” said Jerry. “It’s already a shit job and it’s about to get worse.”

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    “Privatisation is politically motivated” http://solidaritymagazine.org/2010/09/privatisation-is-politically-motivated/ http://solidaritymagazine.org/2010/09/privatisation-is-politically-motivated/#comments Sun, 12 Sep 2010 14:17:19 +0000 http://solidaritymagazine.org/?p=836 Continue reading ]]> Union says Royal Mail is successful and modernising while privatisation is unpopular and politically motivated to get hands on pension cash.

    The Communication Workers Union condemns plans announced today to privatise Royal Mail and vows to fight the politically motivated move by all means.

    A YouGov poll last month found a majority of voters of every party oppose privatising Royal Mail with support at only 15 per cent. At the same time, Royal Mail is a market leader and the company’s profits rose by 26 per cent to £404 million in 2010. A fully funded modernisation programme agreed by both management and unions is in place bringing stability to the company. Royal Mail’s pension scheme assets total around £26 billion.

    Billy Hayes, CWU general secretary, said:

    “Privatisation is old politics. It’s the failed politics of history which brought disruption to Britain’s utilities and railways and astronomical prices for consumers. Dangerously in this case, we fear the government may also be plotting to seize the pension assets.

    Privatisation would be devastating for Royal Mail and the whole country’s postal services. The universal service has been a key part of the UK post for 170 years but because it isn’t the profitable element of mail, the privatisation will put it at risk. This could damage the service for all customers including millions of small business and potentially harm the UK economy. Privatisation will also mean separation of Royal Mail and the post office network, putting the very existence of many more post offices that play such a key role in Britain’s communities at risk.

    Closures, cuts and profit will rule while customers, small businesses, communities and tax payers lose out. This report is politically motivated to please the ideology of the coalition. People who work in the industry know that privatisation has no positive role in this public service. Richard Hooper’s report of 2008 was flawed and his vision was proved to be unachievable. He still doesn’t have the answers to the challenges facing the postal service but faithfully trots out what his political masters request.

    Royal Mail has always been a privatisation too far and there is a public majority out there who will vote this government out for flogging off our national assets and breaking our public services.”

    Dave Ward, CWU deputy general secretary, said:

    “Everyone’s a loser if you privatise the Royal Mail. Jobs and services will suffer and customers will see prices soar.

    We’ve put in place a detailed and fully funded modernisation programme which is dramatically transforming Royal Mail. Why does the government want to threaten the stability and capital of this programme when it’s proving a major success?

    We fear the pensions of our members will be at risk under privatisation. Everyone hears about the deficit, but there’s over £26 billion in assets which belongs to the postmen and women who have paid their contributions every week of their working lives. We will never let the government get its hands on that money for anything other than what it’s intended – to pay for the retirement of hard-working postal workers.

    Postal workers have invested in the modernisation of the service by fully supporting the business transformation agreement signed earlier this year. The company and its employees are working hard to transform the business together. Rather than reverse the progress, the government needs to show the same support for this key public service.”

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    "Privatisation is politically motivated" http://solidaritymagazine.org/2010/09/privatisation-is-politically-motivated-2/ http://solidaritymagazine.org/2010/09/privatisation-is-politically-motivated-2/#comments Sun, 12 Sep 2010 15:17:19 +0000 http://solidaritymagazine.org/?p=836 Continue reading ]]> Union says Royal Mail is successful and modernising while privatisation is unpopular and politically motivated to get hands on pension cash.

    The Communication Workers Union condemns plans announced today to privatise Royal Mail and vows to fight the politically motivated move by all means.

    A YouGov poll last month found a majority of voters of every party oppose privatising Royal Mail with support at only 15 per cent. At the same time, Royal Mail is a market leader and the company’s profits rose by 26 per cent to £404 million in 2010. A fully funded modernisation programme agreed by both management and unions is in place bringing stability to the company. Royal Mail’s pension scheme assets total around £26 billion.

    Billy Hayes, CWU general secretary, said:

    “Privatisation is old politics. It’s the failed politics of history which brought disruption to Britain’s utilities and railways and astronomical prices for consumers. Dangerously in this case, we fear the government may also be plotting to seize the pension assets.

    Privatisation would be devastating for Royal Mail and the whole country’s postal services. The universal service has been a key part of the UK post for 170 years but because it isn’t the profitable element of mail, the privatisation will put it at risk. This could damage the service for all customers including millions of small business and potentially harm the UK economy. Privatisation will also mean separation of Royal Mail and the post office network, putting the very existence of many more post offices that play such a key role in Britain’s communities at risk.

    Closures, cuts and profit will rule while customers, small businesses, communities and tax payers lose out. This report is politically motivated to please the ideology of the coalition. People who work in the industry know that privatisation has no positive role in this public service. Richard Hooper’s report of 2008 was flawed and his vision was proved to be unachievable. He still doesn’t have the answers to the challenges facing the postal service but faithfully trots out what his political masters request.

    Royal Mail has always been a privatisation too far and there is a public majority out there who will vote this government out for flogging off our national assets and breaking our public services.”

    Dave Ward, CWU deputy general secretary, said:

    “Everyone’s a loser if you privatise the Royal Mail. Jobs and services will suffer and customers will see prices soar.

    We’ve put in place a detailed and fully funded modernisation programme which is dramatically transforming Royal Mail. Why does the government want to threaten the stability and capital of this programme when it’s proving a major success?

    We fear the pensions of our members will be at risk under privatisation. Everyone hears about the deficit, but there’s over £26 billion in assets which belongs to the postmen and women who have paid their contributions every week of their working lives. We will never let the government get its hands on that money for anything other than what it’s intended – to pay for the retirement of hard-working postal workers.

    Postal workers have invested in the modernisation of the service by fully supporting the business transformation agreement signed earlier this year. The company and its employees are working hard to transform the business together. Rather than reverse the progress, the government needs to show the same support for this key public service.”

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    Call on TUC to scrap Cameron invite http://solidaritymagazine.org/2010/07/call-on-tuc-to-scrap-cameron-invite/ http://solidaritymagazine.org/2010/07/call-on-tuc-to-scrap-cameron-invite/#comments Thu, 08 Jul 2010 10:38:08 +0000 http://solidaritymagazine.wordpress.com/?p=664 Continue reading ]]> The following motion was passed unanimously at last night’s meeting of the Bristol and District Amal. Branch Central Committee.

    The general policy-ie. not specific to the CWU Executive Council-was overwhelmingly passed at Saturday’s South West TUC Regional Council, in a motion moved by the RMT and seconded by Bridgwater TUC. Please see the text of this after the CWU Bristol motion below.

    In your trade union branch, could you use the terms and format of either motion to help us get this invitation withdrawn?

    Thanks,

    Dave Chapple

    Bristol and District Amalgamated CWU motion:

    “This Central Committee supports the motion overwhelmingly passed at the meeting of the South West Region TUC on 3rd July, which calls upon the TUC General Council to rescind its recent decision to invite David Cameron to this year’s TUC Congress.

    We resolve to write to the CWU President and General Secretary, calling upon the CWU National Executive Council to rescind any endorsement of the decision of the CWU TUC General Council representative(s) to support the decision to invite David Cameron.

    If the NEC hasn’t yet discussed this subject, then we ask that the decision of the TUC General Council representative(s) be NOT endorsed.

    Further, that the CWU writes to the TUC General Secretary, asking that the General Council decision be re-considered as a matter of urgency.”

    South West Region TUC motion:

    “The South West Region TUC deplores the recent decision of the TUC general Council to invite David Cameron to address TUC Congress 2010, and asks the General Council, in the urgent interests of trade union unity against this government’s austerity measures, to reverse this invitation.”

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    Royal Mail's plan for junk deliveries http://solidaritymagazine.org/2010/04/royal-mails-plan-for-junk-deliveries/ http://solidaritymagazine.org/2010/04/royal-mails-plan-for-junk-deliveries/#comments Fri, 30 Apr 2010 13:51:22 +0000 http://solidaritymagazine.wordpress.com/?p=597 Continue reading ]]> Postal workers will soon be under pressure to deliver junk mail to every household

    Roy Mayall

    Postal workers have voted overwhelmingly to accept a deal to end the long-running dispute with the Royal Mail.

    The deal, called Business Transformation 2010 and Beyond, was hammered out in extensive negotiations between the Communications Workers Union and the Royal Mail, following strike action last year. The result of the ballot was 2:1 in favour of the deal.

    Meanwhile preparations for implementing the agreement are already under way.

    In a new document, seen by this writer, Royal Mail has laid out its plans for introducing door-to-door (D2D) into the workload. “Door-to-door” or “household” is the technical name for the unaddressed leaflets and flyers customers usually refer to as junk mail.

    D2D is not currently counted as part of the workload. Postal workers are paid separately for it and are expected to insert the material into their sorting frames in their own time. In practice what this generally means is that D2D items are “thrown off” into the frame on less busy days and then delivered along with the rest of the mail over the week. The usual practice is to leave the D2D in the frame until there is live mail to deliver with it.

    The Royal Mail document, Planning the Introduction of Door-to-Door into Workload, sets out the new working arrangements. D2D is to be inserted in the frame on a daily basis at the rate of 1/6th per day over a six-day week. Currently no D2D is delivered on a Saturday. All mail is then to be taken out, including D2D to households without live mail. This is referred to in the document as “cold-calling”.

    The usual calculation for the number of houses with live mail is 85%. This means that, on average, 15% of households will be “cold-called”, that is, will receive piles of D2D without accompanying mail on a weekly basis. It also means that delivery span times will have to be extended to accommodate the extra deliveries.

    The document then goes on to calculate the amount of time that it will take to insert D2D into the frame, as follows:

    1 contract – 4 mins per day

    2 contracts – 8 mins per day

    3 contracts– 10 mins per day

    4 contracts – 11 mins per day

    5 contracts – 12 mins per day

    6 contracts – 14 mins per day

    This is truly frightening. 1/6 of 500 is 83. So we will be expected to throw off 83 items in four minutes. You can try to imagine this if you like. The frames are about six feet across, from waist high to just above our heads, and contain all the slots representing all the different addresses on a round. The D2D will be inserted last, once the frames are already full of mail, and we will be expected to load this at the rate of 83 items in four minutes. This is almost certainly impossible.

    I know from experience that it takes about 30 minutes to fill my entire frame of 600 slots with one item of D2D in the form of a standard-sized letter. Standard letters are easy to handle, but D2D comes in all shapes and sizes: from small postcard-sized leaflets, to large glossy A4 sheets which flop about. It always takes much longer to load these into the frame as they tend to stick together.

    The document also makes it clear is that there are plans to absorb up to six items into each round. Currently the limit is three. This means not only extra time for delivery, but also extra weight. More bags will be required to carry all the additional items: more visits to drop-off points to collects bags, more time out on delivery.

    You will also see that, while four minutes each is allowed for items 1 and 2, item 3 will only be allowed two minutes and item 4, one minute.

    The document lays out in detail how this is to be done:

    Position one pile of D2D on bench for each contract

    Take item from top of each pile and place collated items in slot for each delivery point on that day’s schedule

    Tidy away D2D

    Clear down D2D with ordinary mail from slots containing live mail

    Translated into ordinary English, what this means is creating little bundles of D2D consisting of all of the separate items, and then shovelling these, collectively, into the frame. For six items of D2D we will be given 14 minutes a day to make up these bundles and then to stick 83 of them into the frame.

    You wonder how the Royal Mail has gone about making their calculations? I guess there may be some experienced sorters able to keep up this kind of rate, but they are rare. And what happens then if postal workers fall below the requirements? This is almost certain to happen. Will we be penalised for it? Can we be disciplined? Will managers be paid bonuses to enforce this arbitrary and unfeasible work rate?

    Royal Mail already has a culture of overbearing managers who will use any excuse to pressurise staff in order to maximise their bonuses.

    This new agreement seems to give them carte blanche to extend the practice.

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    Union deal lets postal workers down http://solidaritymagazine.org/2010/04/union-deal-lets-postal-workers-down/ http://solidaritymagazine.org/2010/04/union-deal-lets-postal-workers-down/#comments Tue, 13 Apr 2010 21:17:08 +0000 http://solidaritymagazine.wordpress.com/?p=579 Continue reading ]]> If the agreement between Royal Mail and the CWU is accepted it will be another weapon in the armoury of bad-natured managers

    Roy Mayall

    Up to 35,000 delivery workers will be worse off if the deal between Royal Mail and the CWU goes through.

    We’ve just received our ballot papers for the agreement which was negotiated between the Royal Mail and the CWU following last year’s strikes. Obviously this isn’t the ballot that is on most people’s minds at the moment, but the outcome of it could have serious implications for your postal delivery service, regardless of which party comes to power in the general election.

    The negotiations took over four months, and it has taken another month or more to prepare the ballot.

    The overwhelming mood among delivery staff – at least if you read the forums – seems to be one of rejection. Up to 35,000 delivery workers will be worse off, having to take an immediate pay-cut in the abolition of door-to-door payments, and their replacement by a flat-rate supplement.

    Part-time workers will be the worst affected by the changes, as the supplement is pro-rata. A Royal Mail employee working a four-hour shift will only get half the money of a full-time employee for doing exactly the same amount of work.

    The agreement commits the Royal Mail to a 75-25% split between full-time and part-time jobs. This was clearly one of the strategic aims of the union in the negotiations. In some postal services in Europe the proportion is reversed, as full-time staff lose their jobs in favour of their part-time rivals.

    But the fact is, part-time staff are being discriminated against here. Many part-timers work virtually full-time hours when overtime is taken into account, and it is only the terms of the contract that are different.

    There is already a two-tier workforce in the Royal Mail. What this agreement does is to reinforce the gap by making the pay-structure different, too. The union appears to have made a deliberate calculation: to risk the loyalty of part-time staff in the interests of its full-time members.

    Again, if you are to believe the forums, there is likely to be a mass exodus from the union if the result of the ballot is positive.

    One of the aspects of the agreement that will most affect the public is the new work plan, which it lays out in some detail. This includes a six-day week and later start times. Something very strange is going on here. The ostensible purpose of the agreement is something loosely described as “modernisation”: that is, the introduction of new technology to speed up processing. And yet, when it comes down to it, we are all going to be starting work an hour later. In order to speed up processing we have to put back delivery times, inconveniencing the public and threatening many small businesses who are reliant on the post. Why would that be, do you think?

    There is no explanation for this in the text, but we can make an educated guess. The reason that start times have to be put back is in order to allow the private mail companies time to process their mail and then get it to us. It’s a strange kind of business indeed that holds up its own workers and inconveniences its own customers in the interests of its rivals, but that is what appears to be happening here.

    Another aspect of the agreement worrying postal workers is the question of productivity. As it says: “We want to bring everybody’s actual performance up to the level of the top 10% performance …”

    Postal delivery is intensely physical work. It involves working at top speed for up to four-and-a-half hours at a stretch for five days a week. Imagine four-and-a-half-hour workout sessions and you have some idea of what this means. The younger you are the better. I’m 57 years old, and very fit, but there’s no way on earth I could work as fast as the younger members of staff in my office.

    What makes that “top 10% performance” doubly worrying is the fact that it is a moving target. The top 10% is always the top 10% no matter how fast everyone else is working. It gets relatively faster as the workrate as a whole goes up, meaning no matter how hard you work you can never catch up.

    There is already a culture of bullying within the Royal Mail. This looks like one more weapon in the armoury of bad-natured managers who – bullied themselves – tend to take their frustrations out on their staff.

    Expect later delivery times, unhappy posties and an all-round poorer service if this agreement goes through.

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