Solidarity Magazine » Royal Mail http://solidaritymagazine.org Fri, 01 Mar 2013 19:29:19 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.8 Spontaneous Walk-out at Bridgewater Sorting office http://solidaritymagazine.org/2012/04/spontaneous-walk-out-at-bridgewater-sorting-office/ http://solidaritymagazine.org/2012/04/spontaneous-walk-out-at-bridgewater-sorting-office/#comments Thu, 26 Apr 2012 14:21:48 +0000 http://localhost:8888/?p=2669 Continue reading ]]> CWU members at Bridgwater Sorting Office held an unofficial and spontaneous walk-out on Thursday 8th March, to show their anger over the sacking of a colleague.

The three and a half hour walk-out was successful. Management have agreed to bring the sacked man’s appeal process forward, which increases his chances of reinstatement. There will be no victimisation of any of the workers who took industrial action, and a ballot will be held for official industrial action if their colleague is not re-instated.

From Bridgwater Trades Union Council

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Model of a Modern Royal Mail http://solidaritymagazine.org/2011/01/model-of-a-modern-royal-mail/ http://solidaritymagazine.org/2011/01/model-of-a-modern-royal-mail/#comments Thu, 20 Jan 2011 12:00:33 +0000 http://solidaritymagazine.org/?p=1236 Continue reading ]]> Roy Mayall 19 January 2011

Last week all the new walk-sequencing machines in our area broke down. This meant that only about a third of the letters arrived at our delivery office on Wednesday. So on Thursday we had two days’ post to deliver, and everyone’s mail was late.

Walk-sequencing machines sort the letters into the order that they are going to be delivered in. The old walk-sorting machines only organised the post into rounds: postal workers had to do the final sorting. Under the old system, all the post was in the delivery office by 7.15 and we were usually out on our rounds by 9.00. Under the new system, the last lorry arrives at 9.15 and sometimes we don’t get out until after 11.00. It’s quite normal for a postal worker to finish work at 3.30 these days, and for posties doing rural rounds still to be delivering letters as late as four in the afternoon. The machines also have a tendency to break down, as we’ve just discovered, so on some days no post is delivered at all. But they are central to the Royal Mail’s ‘modernisation’ programme.

There was a talk show about the Royal Mail on BBC Three Counties Radio the other day. People in Milton Keynes weren’t getting their post. Some people had been waiting for three weeks for it to arrive. ‘Obviously we have to modernise the business and that is what we are doing,’ explained Steve Smart, a local collection and delivery manager. ‘At the end of the day if we don’t modernise Royal Mail we’ll have problems down the line.’ In a nine-minute interview he used the word ‘modernise’ or ‘modernisation’ 15 times.

The Royal Mail have scrapped all the bikes in Milton Keynes and replaced them with vans. Vans are obviously much more modern than bikes. They are also more expensive. Not only do they cost several thousand pounds to buy, they cost several hundred pounds a year to tax and insure. As one postal worker said, ‘you could have bought a new bike for the cost of the insurance, which would have lasted ten years.’

Vans are also slower and less versatile than bikes. They are quicker along the road, but once on your round you have to get out and walk, pulling the post behind you on a trolley. It’s awkward. After a while it puts a strain on your back. And you can’t read the envelopes as you’re walking, which slows things down even more. Rounds that used to take three and a half hours to complete are now taking up to five. Whoever devised this method has obviously never delivered a letter in their life.

On a bike you can sometimes ride right to the front door and push the post through the letter box without getting off. You don’t get a stiff back. You never have trouble parking. Bikes cost nothing to run, give out no fumes, and will still be in use when all the vans are scrapped because petrol has become too expensive.

‘Modernising’ the Royal Mail means replacing a tried and tested method that’s been good for more than a hundred years with one that is more tiring, more polluting, slower and more expensive. Expect more chaos and delayed post as the Royal Mail’s modernisation programme is rolled out across the country.

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The not so jolly postman http://solidaritymagazine.org/2010/12/the-not-so-jolly-postman/ http://solidaritymagazine.org/2010/12/the-not-so-jolly-postman/#comments Sat, 18 Dec 2010 15:15:24 +0000 http://solidaritymagazine.org/?p=1128 Continue reading ]]> People used to say being a postman was the best job in the world. You’re up and out, in the fresh air, meeting people; it’s a healthy job, you’re active. It gave you a good feeling; everyone used to look forward to getting their post, especially at Christmas. I’ve been a postman for more than 10 years and I do, even now, genuinely love my job. And Christmas is the best – and worst – of times for a postal worker like me.


Postal worker Roy Mayall loves his job – the fresh air, the early starts, even the Christmas rush. But this year it’s not quite so much fun. The service is being ‘modernised’, resulting in backlogs and delays. So will your cards get through?

It’s been a tough few weeks. I tend to forget from year to year just how demanding Christmas is. It’s like an avalanche of mail bearing down upon you; a huge mountain of letters giving way and falling on your head.

Let me give you some comparisons. Normally we would expect to carry mail to around 85% of households; at Christmas it is nearly 100%. Normally we would expect to deliver between one and three items per household; at Christmas it could be 30 or 40. A round usually takes three and a half hours; at Christmas it could be six. Ordinarily we take out 30 parcels. At Christmas it could be 150. That’s when I start to panic, as I’m dragging the third or fourth sack of parcels to my frame for sorting; I break into a cold sweat, wondering where it is all supposed to go.

But, cold sweats apart, we manage. We sort the mail into its proper sequence. We bundle it up ready to go out. We get the right parcels with the right letters so that they are delivered to the right addresses (generally speaking). We load up our bikes, with a tottering mound of mail in front, parcels in the panniers, and yet more packages in a pouch over our shoulders and balanced on the rack.

After that, it’s just a question of delivering it all. That’s the good bit. That’s why kids love us. We’re like Father Christmas, dressed in our red-and-blue waterproofs, with a bright red sack on our shoulders, riding a red bike, bringing presents to your door. Every year is exhausting, but we get through it. It’s a fantastic effort, and there’s a real sense of satisfaction in completing it. Until this year, that is.

This year, the higher echelons of Royal Mail management have decided to implement some changes. So, for example, they are getting rid of our bikes, and we’re getting vans instead. To do this, they are restructuring offices, restructuring rounds, reordering the frames, and reassigning roles: offices are being turned upside down and the workforce is demoralised.

Some of you will be aware that this is happening, some won’t. It depends on where you live. The changes are being rolled out in stages. Some parts of the country have already started to implement them, others will have to wait until next year. So if you live in Dundee, for instance, or Warwick, Formby or Herne Bay, or in any one of 30 to 40 affected towns around the country, then you will already realise something is afoot. You’ll know because your mail will fail to arrive for five days in succession, but will come in one large lump at the end of the week. You will know because you’ll have missed your hospital appointment, which arrived too late in the post, or because your copy of the Radio Times landed on your mat after your programmes had finished.

You may also know because your local paper is reporting it. Here are some samples of headlines around the country: “Formby residents fear postal backlog will ruin Christmas” (Sefton & West Lancashire). “Royal Mail’s battle to clear backlog of post” (Dundee). “Warwick post delivery ‘in a gigantic mess‘” (Warwickshire).

In each of these stories, the journalist gets the same response from Royal Mail. This is from the Stratford-upon-Avon Herald: “As part of Royal Mail’s £2bn investment in modernising its operations, changes are being made at delivery offices across the country to make them more efficient. When any such major change is implemented, some disruption is possible until the changes bed in.”

You will notice the use of that word “modernising”. So we are throwing away our bikes and demolishing the whole of the Royal Mail network – every frame and every process, through every office in every town – in order to accommodate the new “modern” working methods.

Why we are getting rid of the bikes? In 2009 they said it was for efficiency reasons. Earlier this year they said it was for safety reasons. But us posties have known all along the real reason. It’s so we can carry more weight, take out more packets, and do more work in the same number of hours.

The new delivery method is called “park and loop”. Two posties go out together in a van. In the back of the van they carry two golf trolleys, maybe 20 full pouches of mail, all the Special Delivery and Recorded Delivery letters, and all the tracked items. They park up and head off in two different directions, dragging their golf trolleys behind them. They deliver all the mail in a big loop, circling back to the van. Then they drive off to another spot and start the process again. Which would be all very well if it actually worked. But it doesn’t.

The procedure is overseen by a computer programme called Pegasus Geo-Route. It is the Royal Mail equivalent of Google Earth. Pegasus Geo-Route tells you exactly how much time each of the loops is supposed to take: how long, on average, each postie is supposed to spend at each door, how many packets he is supposed to be carrying, how long it is supposed to take to get from one door to the next, and what speed he is supposed to be walking.

The thing about computer programmes is that they are only as good as the information that is fed into them. And the problem with the information being fed into Pegasus Geo-Route is that it grossly underestimates the time it actually takes to do things. So, for example, for something called an “attendance delivery” – when we have to knock on the door to get a signature, or to hand over a parcel – we are allowed one minute. Think about it. That’s one minute for the person to hear the doorbell, come to the door, sign the chitty and receive the parcel, and for us to note the time, put the chitty away again, go back to the trolley, and start on to the next house. What if it’s an old lady who is at the top of the house? What if she’s hard of hearing and it takes two knocks? The Royal Mail’s own rules say we are supposed to wait for three minutes for the occupant to get to the door. And then, having waited, if the occupant is out, we have to write a “Sorry You Were Out” card and drop that through the door before we can continue on our way. How long does all that take? A lot more than one minute.

This underestimation is going on throughout the revision process. So it’s estimated we will have to stop and knock on the door 23 times a day, when it’s more like 50; that it will take six minutes for us to load door-to-door leaflets into the frame, when it takes more like 15; that it will take an hour to “prep” the frame ready to go out on the round, when it takes more like two. The amount of traffic passing through the offices has also been spectacularly underestimated. One office I know is supposed to have around 26,000 items passing through it a day, when the real figure is more like 42,000.

What this means is that there is a huge backlog of mail building up in all the offices where the new processes have been introduced. In one there is so much undelivered mail that for two days there wasn’t enough room to bring any more mail in. The post was literally spilling out of the door. They had to ring up the main sorting office to ask them to halt deliveries, and every office in the region had to send one postal worker over to help clear the backlog – this despite the fact that everyone is overstretched due to the Christmas rush.

This is only the first of a series of increasingly bizarre decisions the Royal Mail has taken this year. It has also introduced expensive, state-of-the-art letter sequencing machines that actually slow down the process of sorting the mail, resulting in later deliveries to your door. Local delivery offices are being closed at a time when online shopping is on the increase, thus increasing the number of “Sorry You Were Out” cards, and the number of times you have to drive to your nearest office to pick up your package. In future, don’t be surprised if it’s not from some out-of-town mail hub just off the motorway, servicing several different towns at the same time.

Then, on the back of all this restructuring, the company has decided to reduce staff levels, on the basis that the new delivery methods are so much more efficient. So in one office I know of, they have lost four full-time staff, and in another they have lost eight. In the latter case, the management was forced to re-employ staff to help clear the growing backlog. It has since agreed that at least five more workers are needed: but it is five workers on a reduced contract, which might go part of the way to explaining the motives behind all this.

The earlier contracts were highly favourable, with a good pension plan and good employment rights. The new contracts are casual, meaning that workers have virtually no rights.

Even if you think that all of the above changes are entirely necessary, who on earth thought it would be a good idea to bring them in just before Christmas, when the sheer weight of mail is in danger of overwhelming the system? And on top of all of this, we are about to be privatised. We are about to be sold off to a private company that may well want to alter all our practices all over again.

Today is the last posting day before Christmas for second-class mail; the last posting day for first-class mail is Tuesday. But don’t bank on all your Christmas post getting through. I’m certainly not.

Roy Mayall is a pseudonym. His book Dear Granny Smith: A Letter from Your Postman is published by Short Books (£4.99).

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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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      More reflections on the agreement http://solidaritymagazine.org/2010/03/more-reflections-on-the-agreement/ http://solidaritymagazine.org/2010/03/more-reflections-on-the-agreement/#comments Wed, 24 Mar 2010 16:53:48 +0000 http://solidaritymagazine.wordpress.com/?p=537 Continue reading ]]> By Roy Mayall

      Money

      I don’t know about you, but I didn’t go on strike for money. I went on strike so the management would know that they couldn’t push us around, that we were willing to take action to defend our jobs and the quality of our service. It was the quality of service I was as concerned about as much as anything to do with money.

      I was talking to one of my mates at work yesterday. I asked him if he’d read the agreement?

      There’s no point,” he said. “I’m not in the union so I can’t vote on it anyway.”

      That seemed like a strange point of view to me.

      But it will affect your job for the next few years. Aren’t you interested to find out what it says?”

      No Roy. I’ve been in the job for thirteen years now, and what I’ve found is that the management always gets what it wants.”

      You see, that seems like a loser’s attitude to me. The management always gets what it wants. Even when they are wholly wrong, we just have to accept it. It is the way of the world. If we all thought like that then nothing would ever change and we might as well roll over and die right now for all the good that breathing would do.

      And then my friend said, in a voice resonant with resignation and defeat, “In the end there’s only eight hours in a day. They can’t make us work more than that.”

      This is true. But they can make us work harder in those eight hours. They can make us carry more weight. They can make us break our backs with the sheer volume of mail we are obliged to carry. They can make us work till four o’clock on a Saturday, heaving out shit-loads of junk mail to households that hate us for it. They can turn our lives upside down with all of their ludicrous innovations. They can have us leaping through hoops to satisfy arbitrary management requirements which serve no other purpose than to undermine our self-esteem.

      This is the thing I most dislike about this agreement. It opens the door to all of that. Longer spans. More junk mail. Later starts. Late Saturdays. A poorer service all round.

      And in the end, whose interest is all of this serving? Take those late starts. What’s that for exactly? It’s so they can run their Walk Sequencing Machines to automate the job. But – hang on – aren’t Walk Sequencing Machines meant to make the job more efficient? So how come they can’t run to time then? Why do we have to start late in order to serve them? Why can’t they start early in order to serve us?

      There’s the question. And the answer is – I very strongly suspect – that we are starting later in order to serve the interests of the private mail companies.

      That’s the point that keeps coming back to me again and again and again. We are constantly being bombarded with this propaganda about the diminishing market, when we all know, by the sheer weight we are lugging about every day, that the market is growing. There’s plenty of cash flowing about in the postal trade. What they mean is a diminishing share of the market, because the private mail companies are eating into our profit base, but without adding anything of value. We still do most of the work.

      So what really puzzles me is why the union isn’t doing something about this?

      There would be no need to talk about growing the market by loading our poor unsuspecting customers with yet more unwanted junk, if only the Royal Mail was being properly paid for what it does. There would be no need for later start times if we weren’t having to wait for the private mail companies to get the mail to us first, adding one more unnecessary link to the chain.

      If the union told us to stop delivering DSA mail, we could kill it off instantly.

      There would be no need for Dave and Billy to go grandstanding around the country trying to sell an unpopular deal to a sceptical membership.

      The union’s official policy is for an end to DSA mail and a return to the Royal Mail monopoly. But where are the campaign leaflets to go with this policy? Where’s the strategy? Is there a plan of action? Are the membership being informed? Do we know what steps we are going to take in order to overturn this ludicrous trade in fleecing the public? And, while Dave and Billy are presenting their all-singing, all-dancing never-ending musical road-show around the country, why aren’t they mentioning the one issue that could actually make a difference to all of us?

      Why aren’t they telling us what they propose to do about DSA?

      Value

      As I say: I didn’t go on strike for money. Money isn’t the most important issue here. What concerns me is what the job will be like in two, three, five years time, and what sort of an industry we bequeath to our kids.

      Automation doesn’t worry me either. Bring it on, I say. Let’s have all that walk-sequenced mail flowing in so we can throw it off in half the time. Except that no one is expecting us to be able to do that. The estimate is that walk-sequencing will save about seven minutes a round. And meanwhile, in the real growth market, the relentless rise of on-line shopping, walk-sequencing machines are all but useless. The best way of sorting oddly shaped and uneven packets is still by hand. And until they’ve invented robots that can read the mail and rails that lead to everyone’s front door, they will always need people to deliver the mail on foot. The postal market is a growing market – or at least a steady market – and there will always be space for people within it.

      It’s a question of how we fill that space: as donkeys, or as thinking human beings.

      So what do you think is the real reason behind the “modernising” agenda. I put the word in inverted commas because I remain sceptical about the current use of the word.

      There’s an old-fashioned economic theory known as The Labour Theory of Value. It isn’t taught much any more. Marxists will know of it, but it isn’t only a Marxist concept. John Stuart Mill used it. Malthus used it. It dates back to the thirteenth century, perhaps even further. It was the traditional measure by which value was estimated.

      It goes like this. Where does value come from? It comes from labour. What’s the difference between the hide of a cow and a pair of shoes? What’s the difference, come to that, between a pile of sand and a silicone chip? The hide is worth less than the shoes. The sand is worth less than the chip. And what makes the difference? It is the value of the labour that has gone into the making of the product, both the direct labour, and the accumulated labour in terms of education and training, which is why skilled work is worth more than unskilled work. More labour has gone into it.

      And traditionally, classical economics drew a line between earned income, and unearned income. Earned income came from adding your labour to a product to create value. That is the real economy. Unearned income is things like rents, interest, stocks and shares, land value and real estate.

      Unearned income is money that can be earned while twiddling your thumbs or goosing the maid. You don’t need to work to get it.

      Traditional economics therefore proposed taxing unearned income in order to benefit society as a whole. It is what Adam Smith meant when he talked about the free market. The free market did not become free until the burden of unearned income had been lifted from the economy by taxation: the exact opposite of current free market thinking. It was what the Labour Party was created to do. That was what was meant by the redistribution of wealth: redistribution from those who lived off unearned income to those who created the wealth by their labour.

      You can see why it’s not taught any more can’t you? Because it questions the very basis of the world we inhabit, where unearned income lords it over earned income, and we have all become serfs to the profit motive.

      This is the real reason behind the euphemistic term “modernisation”. Modernisation means privatisation. What they actually mean is the right of the agencies of unearned income who now rule the world to extract private profit from every form of human endeavour: and that includes the postal market.

      The postal market is not being privatised in the interests of efficiency, but in the interests of the corporations that already control most of our lives.

      Work

      This, of course, is the world we live in, and I guess the union think that they are just being realistic by making compromises with it in order to survive. But here are some of the things I don’t understand. So, for instance, we are now being told that the Royal Mail were going to abolish the piece rate for door-to-door anyway, so we should consider the door-to-door supplement as a bonus.

      Pardon?

      Can you imagine what would have happened if Royal Mail had unilaterally got rid of door-to-door payments and attempted to force them into our workload without union consent? We’d have simply refused. They would have had a rebellion on their hands. They could never have got away with it.

      In other words, what the union have done here is to offer the management a gift of the door-to-door payments. They’ve handed it to them on a plate.

      But I wouldn’t even mind taking a pay cut if I thought this agreement was in the best interests of the work force. The trouble is there is so much in the agreement which is not.

      The six-day work plan, the revision of hours, the later start times, the longer Saturdays, all of this adds up to a sell out. It’s not like we’ve given one thing in order to get something better back. It all stinks.

      Take the issue of productivity, for example.

      As it says in the agreement:

      We want to bring everybody’s actual performance up to the level of the top 10% performance…”

      I think this is what concerns me the most. I know I couldn’t possibly go any faster. I’m a middle-aged man and the job already knackers me out. I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels this. I know how fast the top 10% can go. I’ve worked with them, and it’s just not possible for me to go that fast.

      My friend the Minister of Cucumber on Royal Mail Chat made an interesting observation about this. Why were we allowed job and knock for a period? It’s obvious now: it upped the work-rate. People started working faster so they could get home earlier. But now that work-rate, which we used to do voluntarily for ourselves, is expected of us as part of the job.

      They upped the speed of Pegasus to match it, and are upping the length of our walks to reflect the greater amounts of work we are expected to do.

      The agreement continues this process. Longer walks, more junk mail, longer delivery spans. It’s all a way of increasing productivity so they can siphon the profit off to the private sector.

      Meanwhile the agreement assigns the role of management enforcer and collective cheerleader to the CWU.

      Listen to these passages if you don’t believe me:

      Both Royal Mail and the CWU recognise that successful change needs full and meaningful involvement of all key parties. It is therefore critical that both local management and the CWU are positively and actively involved in the revisions process.”

      That means they’ll decide for us what the work plan will be.

      After that there will be “joint training on the relevant parts of this agreement” – that means propaganda – “CWU reps being able to play an active role in Work Time Listening and Learning sessions” – that means they will be expected to pass the propaganda on to us.

      God help us! WTLL is dull enough as it is, without having to listen to yet more platitudinous commentary by people who have been brainwashed into management ways of thinking.

      It’s all very well for the union and the management to want to improve industrial relations so we can get on with the job of delivering the mail, but this agreement just looks like the CWU are getting into bed with management.

      Let’s hope they will be very happy together.

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      Royal Mail – "Downstream Access" http://solidaritymagazine.org/2010/02/royal-mail-downstream-access/ http://solidaritymagazine.org/2010/02/royal-mail-downstream-access/#comments Sun, 07 Feb 2010 21:42:30 +0000 http://solidaritymagazine.wordpress.com/?p=480 Continue reading ]]>

      Downstream Access

      By Roy Mayall

      Postal workers will certainly know about Downstream Access, but how many members of the public have heard about it or understand what is going on?

      The following is a user’s guide to Downstream Access and its impact on the Royal Mail.


      Downstream Access (DSA) is the means by which private mail companies can gain access to the Royal Mail network, using Royal Mail staff to deliver their mail for them. It is the result of a series of EU directives whose ostensible purpose was to liberalise and harmonise postal services across Europe. What the process has actually achieved is the casualisation of postal worker’s jobs and diminishing standards for the ordinary consumer.

      There are 41 licensed postal operators in the UK, including the Royal Mail. Of these only the Royal Mail has a universal delivery obligation.

      Downstream Access companies include Citipost, DHL, SecuredMail, TNT and UK Mail. They bid for the most profitable bulk city-to-city and business to business trade, taking it away from the Royal Mail, before handing it over to the Royal Mail to actually deliver it.

      You can tell which is Downstream Access mail by the frank in the right hand corner of the envelope. Any mail that doesn’t have a Royal Mail stamp, or which has some other kind of mark on it, is Downstream Access mail.

      According to Billy Hayes in a recent article, every downstream access letter actually costs the Royal Mail 2p.

      This means that the British taxpayer is subsidising private companies to run-down the Royal Mail at the cost of 2p for every letter.

      The trick that is being played on all of us is to present this process as part of the normal workings of the free market. We are being presented with the picture of an out-of-date, old-fashioned Royal Mail struggling in a free market against its more efficient and “modern” rivals. The Royal Mail is then being asked to “modernise” in response to this.

      What this means for the workforce is increasing amounts of work for diminishing numbers of staff, increasing casualisation of the workforce, more and more part-time staff on diminishing pay and conditions, and a lessening of the ratio of full-time to part-time staff. It is full-time staff who are expected to take up the slack, while, at the same time, the pressure is on for full-time staff to leave the Royal Mail, to take redundancy, or to look for work in other trades.

      What this means for the consumer is an increasingly shoddy and make-shift service, as Royal Mail staff are coming under pressure to do more work in less time.

      The old-fashioned postie’s pride in his job and his service to customers is being squeezed out in favour of a cheaper mail service for the big corporations. B2B (business to business) and B2C (business to customer) is being made cheaper at the expense the ordinary consumer, including small businesses and High Street shops, who are receiving their mail ever later.

      What we can do about this

      We need to start a campaign to return Downstream Access mail to the sender.

      All unsolicited mail, such as advertising leaflets, promotional or charity mail, or other non-urgent mail sent by DSA, should be immediately returned.

      Make sure the address window on the envelope is covered, and that the return address is highlighted.

      Make sure, also, that it is clear WHY you are returning the mail.

      Write “NO TO DOWNSTREAM ACCESS”, or some similar phrase, in bold clear letters on the front of the envelope, and put the letter back in the post

      What if I need to read the contents?

      Obviously you will need to read some of your DSA mail. Bank statements, for instance, are often sent by DSA. Clearly you will need to open these.

      However, you can write to the company who sent you the mail telling them that you disapprove of their use of private companies to deliver their mail and asking that all letters be sent by Royal Mail in future.

      It is up to you how much or how little of your DSA mail you return. Obviously the more the better, but even if only non-essential mail is returned it will put pressure on those companies who opt for DSA to use the Royal Mail instead.

      Downstream Access is not “competition” for the Royal Mail, it is a burden. The companies who profit by DSA are not “rivals” they are parasites.

      Say NO to Downstream Access!

      Return the Royal Mail to full public ownership.

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      Reintroduce the postal monopoly of Royal Mail http://solidaritymagazine.org/2010/02/reintroduce-the-postal-monopoly-of-royal-mail/ http://solidaritymagazine.org/2010/02/reintroduce-the-postal-monopoly-of-royal-mail/#comments Mon, 01 Feb 2010 21:03:03 +0000 http://solidaritymagazine.wordpress.com/?p=473 Continue reading ]]> You may have heard about the postal worker blogger who goes by the name of Roy Mayall. He came to prominence via a blog on the London Review of Books and through his book, ‘Dear Granny Smith’. Roy’s reports made sense of the situation in Royal Mail. He has given a postal workers eye view of the impact of liberalisation on the people who do the work and the service they are able to deliver. You can read his blog here.

      Roy has drawn to our attention a Downing Street site petition calling for the reintroduction of the postal monopoly to Royal Mail. You can sign it here. Please do.

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