Postal worker warns six-day service is under threat

Christmas is the busiest time of the year for workers at the Home Counties North mail centre in Maylands Avenue, Hemel Hempstead.
Christmas is the busiest time of the year for workers at the Home Counties North mail centre in Maylands Avenue, Hemel Hempstead.

A postal worker who has been in the job for 35 years has warned that some areas may not get a daily delivery if privatisation plans go ahead.

Union representative John Thwaites says ‘uneconomical’ rural areas could be scrapped from rounds to save cash and it could even hit more central areas too.

John said: “The little old lady waiting for her birthday cards from her grandchildren might not get them.”

He has spoken out as the Communications Workers Union prepares to ballot its members to; support its campaign to stop privatisation, support the boycott of competitors’ mail, support its pay claim and its call for non co-operation with Royal Mail’s ‘unachievable’ performance demands.

He believes that some areas will not receive the current six-day service because under the Universal Service Obligation rules - a list of minimum requirements that must be delivered - only first and second class stamped mail is protected.

“Business mail is unprotected,” said John, who after 30 years of delivering door-to-door now operates letter sorting machinery at Hemel Hempstead’s super mail centre in Maylands Avenue.

“The person waiting for a medical report or appointment might not get them.”

It also includes bank statements, television licence, some polling cars, rent notices and everything else sent without a traditional first or second class stamp.

John said: “The problem we have got is stamped mail makes up a very small proportion of our mail - we are estimating around five to 10 per cent.

“I was a delivery postman for 30 odd years, I have been asked to check on old people living alone, asked to push cars and vans in the snow. My greatest concern is for the service in the future. It is about the whole ethos of Royal Mail.”

“I’m extremely proud of the service that I and my fellow colleagues have been able to give to customers.

“This is not a criticism of Royal Mail or our customers, it is a criticism of the dogma that is coming out of the present government and quite frankly the previous governments.”

Royal Mail has issued the following statement:

“Royal Mail is disappointed with the Communications Workers Union’s decision to hold its consultative ballot of its members on a number of issues. We are committed to seeking an agreement with the CWU on the way forward in Royal Mail that equips the business for the future and is fair to our employees.

“Our position on the issues set out in the CWU consultative ballot is as follows:

“CWU proposed boycott of Access Mail:

“Royal Mail is fully committed to the delivery of mail entrusted with us under Downstream Access contracts. A boycott of access mail would adversely impact the business, our reputation and that of our employees.

>Access mail accounts for almost one in two of all the letters we handle

>It was previously loss-making. In 2011/12 we made a profit of £80 million on Access mail after modernisation and before other exceptional costs

>If we don’t deliver Access mail, our customers may look for alternatives, including using more email

“Potential sale of Royal Mail:

“Obtaining ongoing access to external capital is a key part of Royal Mail’s continuing transformation process. It will enable us to combine the best of the public and private sectors.

“The Government has made it clear it does not have the capital itself to invest in Royal Mail. It wants that capital to come from the private sector.

>The Postal Services Act 2011 provides a framework within which Royal Mail could access external capital. Any sale is a matter for the UK Government

>Ongoing access to external capital will allow us to invest in the business, secure as many good-quality jobs as possible and continue to provide the cherished Universal Service to more than 29 million addresses across the UK

>Whether or not Royal Mail is publicly or privately owned, the six-day-a-week, one-price-goes-anywhere Universal Service is enshrined in law. It can only be changed by both Houses of Parliament. Ofcom, the independent regulator, has a primary duty to protect the Universal Service. It has ruled out any changes to the scope of the Universal Service

“CWU pay claim:

“We are committed to seeking an agreement with the CWU on the way forward in Royal Mail that equips the business for the future and is fair to our employees. We have already reached agreement on a number of issues:

>We will continue to have a predominantly full-time workforce

>There will be improved opportunities for part time employees who wish to work full time

>The extension of enhanced voluntary redundancy terms during the current modernisation of Royal Mail

“CWU policy of non-co-operation with Royal Mail

“Royal Mail’s fundamental transformation and modernisation programme - one of the biggest in British industry – has made good progress. We have improved our financial position and we are a more efficient company. This has been down to the hard work of our people. We need to continue the process - if we are not an efficient and modernised company we will lose business to others.

“Royal Mail, its employees and its trade unions need to work together to ensure the business is successful in the future.

“Earlier this month we reached agreement with the CWU on the completion of the transformation process in our delivery operations and the payment of associated rewards and benefits to our employees

“We know that aspects of our transformation have been hard and difficult for our people. We accept this. The role that they have played has made us a much more efficient and productive company.”