POSTAL WORKERS STRIKE 2009 – FAQ

Q. So what’s this all about then? Posties are just lazy aren’t they? And that’s why Royal Mail want to sort them out?

A. No! A Postman/woman’s job is one of the hardest jobs in the country – fact. No joke! Ten years ago your postie had 2 bags of mail to deliver each day, now your postie struggles to deliver 6-8 bags per day in the same hours. This is no exaggeration – work load has more than trippled in recent years. And believe it or not 60,000 jobs have been cut in the past 5 years at Royal Mail with the remaining staff (many now part-time) absorbing the resulting massive increase in workload.

Q. Oh come on – so why is the company saying you’re all lazy and have all these ‘Spanish Practices’ where you don’t do what you’re told or get loads of overtime money for doing nothing?

A. There are infact no so-called ‘Spanish’ practices (apologies to the Spanish) and there haven’t been any for years. When they did exist they did so with the blessing of management and some like the biggest, ‘job and finish’, were introduced by national management to encourage us to walk faster! The latest agreement with the union (2007 Pay and Modernisation) abolished job and finish as per company wishes. So this issue is simply propaganda to make us look bad and get the public on the companys side. The managers in Royal Mail call the shots full stop and infact they regularly threaten posties with the sack if they say they can’t cope and have too much work to do.

All overtime has to be signed off by managers, as you’d expect, and many offices have an overtime-ban meaning it simply is not paid under any circumstances. This is a modern highly structured UK company here, they have a tight reign on all goings on and far from being lazy, posties regularly work-on for nothing – often against their will, slogging their guts out because managers have them fearing for their job.

Q. You’re joking right?! The Managers aren’t that bad?

A. No! Royal Mail managers rule with a rod-of-iron and have been bullying and threatening staff for years. Multiple cases have been officially reported in every office and some complaints upheld, but the threats continue. In a typical large delivery office of say 100 posties upto 1/4 (usually the part-timers) will be routinely threatened into working past their hours – for nothing. The rest will rush rounds as quick as they can to avoid confrontations with managers or having to beg to be paid for overtime. It’s very common for overtime payments to never appear in wage packets even after repeated reminders.

Q. I just can’t believe this. You’re saying postmen don’t swan about doing whatever they want telling managers where to go?

A. Absolutely not, on my mothers life. The opposite, is infact, the case. Postmen fear for their jobs daily and rush round doing more work than 3 postmen did 10 years ago – and now the managers want even more. That’s what this is all about. We are treated like dirt, threatened daily, work for nothing, we’re given enough mail to kill a donkey and still the company want’s to make more cuts. When postmen have accidents at work due to rushing round or by tripping while looking at the bundle of mail when walking, (instead of stopping to check it which we no longer have time for) we are actually reprimanded and put on a warning process that in 3 steps leads to the sack.

Threatened with the sack for trying to get the job done in unrealistic time spans! A postie works harder than you would believe, otherwise he/she has pay suspended or is sacked or bullied into giving up the job.

Q. OK so if that’s true, why do I get everyones mail except my own?! Posties these days couldn’t care less and throw letters in any old door.

A. Well the answer is simple – with 3 times the workload of your old-fashioned postman the modern postie doesn’t have the time to check the mail properly. Simple as that. Your postie is expected to do 4 to 5hours of delivery work in 3 1/2 hours.

That’s all they are given and as a result corners have to be cut. So not all the letters can be checked, packets are dumped on doorsteps, hedges and walls are jumped over, lawns are run across and vaguely addressed mail that the postman used to be able to deliver by asking around is now regularly destroyed or sold off by the company! And not only is there more mail than ever now but rounds have been made bigger for many many posties in the past 18months – going up from 500 to 7-800 houses for each postie and this increase in round size is being rolled out nationally. It’s a result of the Pegasus computer program which is being unfairly programmed to walk speeds of upto 5miles an hour.

Q. Hold on, your saying there is MORE mail than ever? Royal Mail say it’s dropping 10% every year as a result of the internet and texting?

A. That’s a complete lie. Nationally, mail volume is measured by counting the number of boxes of mail that arrive at a delivery office. The number of boxes is multiplied by the average number of letters per box to get a total figure. Now here’s the clever part – until recently the number of letters in each box was estimated at around 200. That number was arbitarily and without consultation with the workforce or union reduced to 150. So overnight mail volumes droped by 25% – now THAT’S magic.

In response, the union had random counts done over a period of weeks and the average number of letters per box was found to be….256. Other independent counts from individual postmen have found boxes contain from 230-290 letters each. But there’s nothing the union can do to redress the balance, the new figure of 150 still stands and the big lie continues. If you ask any postman about mail volume he/she will say there is significantly now more mail (volume and weight) then ever, compared to 3, 5 or 10 years ago. Ontop of that the ‘Mail Volume’ figure Royal Mail bang on about totally ignores the number of packets comming into the system from home shopping and the internet. These are very very profitable for the company meaning postmen now have 3 to 5 times more packets than ever before!

Q. I can’t believe this. OK but doesn’t there need to be staff cuts? Redundancies? And the union are stopping this modernisation isn’t it?

A. As stated above, there has actually already been a cut of 60,000 staff in the past 5 years at Royal Mail. Yes that’s right, sixty-thousand less staff and in addition to that around 1/4 of the fulltime staff have been made part-time. And this was agreed to by the union! That’s because we recognise the introduction of new machines (which was also fully supported by the union!) reduced the numbers of staff needed. All redundancies were voluntary and cuts were made by not hiring replacement staff. Now, Royal Mail fail to mention this when they talk about ‘the union preventing modernisation’. The union is actively LEADING THE WAY and fully co-operative with realistic moderisation proposals, the implementation of machines and more efficient working that benifits the company and it’s dedicated workers. The problem now is that more and more cuts are being made, but now with no consulation or agreement, and they go way way too far and benifit neither the customers sevice nor us the staff.

Q. OK, so which parts then of Royal Mail’s modernisation plan is the Union objecting to and how would the changes effect me anyway?

A. Hold on there, it is NOT the union that are making the objections here – it’s us, the employees.

The union do what we, the staff, ask them to do and it’s us Royal Mail workers up and down the and (76%) that are united in saying we’ve had enough. Please don’t see this as ‘another union trying to stuff the management’ issue. The CWU desperately want a sucessful Royal Mail just like the workers do. OK…Royal Mail’s idea of modernisation, very simply, is to give someone 3 1/2 hours to do 4 to 5 hours of delivery work. Royal Mail’s idea of modernisation is going to make us give you a terrible service because we don’t have time to do the job properly – and we hate them for it. We are given 8 bags of mail to deliver when we would still struggle with 5. As a result we have to run around getting rid of mail anyway we can. That’s not good for you and we don’t enjoy it either, it’s an all-out slog and at the end of it you are shattered – and probablly 45mins past your shift end with no overtime comming your way. That’s a daily reality for most postmen hence the large majority in the recent vote. What the company wants to do next would frighten you. As well as make rounds even longer (Arghhhhh!) they want to make most posties part-time casual staff on minimum wage.

This would mean your postie would change regularly, he/she would not know you, would have no long-term commitment to the job or you the customer. We believe a temporary, transient workforce like this would do a terrible job, would dump mail by the barrelload and would inevitably steal mail. The job is often a very hard one and it needs a dedicated workforce with commitment and crucially, enough time to do the job properly – that’s what were fighting for, a fairer job for us, and a much better service for the customers we know would be the result.

Q. So what else does Royal Mail want to do that will effect the post? Don’t they want a quality service too?

A. That’s actually unlikely. Their actions prove that quality of service is NOT their main priority, far from it. Can you remember how many small Post Offices were closed recently by Royal Mail? 7,000 over the past few years? While admittedly society has changed and some were not selffinancing and needed to go, this massive closure program has not improved the public service

Royal Mail is supposed to provide us with! Royal Mail want you to wait 48hrs before you can pick up the packet that they didn’t give to the postman to deliver to you! Well that WILL save the company a bit of money as they wont need as many packet delivery drivers and won’t need to employ ‘Dave’ that extra guy in the office who used to sort and label the packets the same day for customers to pick up.

But who looses big-time there? All of us! Why should you have to wait 48hrs for your packets or get a ‘sorry you were out’ note when you were actually in waiting?! Why should you trek halfway across town to find the collection office opening hours have been cut and you can’t get your packet till next week. Why should you get your mail delivered to the wrong street nevermind the wrong number? Surely a sign or an overworkered postie?! Why do you need to join a que 20 people deep on a saturday to collect your packet? So that the company can make 500Million instead of 400Million pounds profit each year? Isn’t this public service, as vital to peoples lives and UK buisness as it is, important enough to warrent sufficient staff numbers?!?!

Does the UK need a better postal service, or is higher profits for the managers and private investors to share round more important? It’s your service, you decide. And there’s more! Have you recently been charged £1 handling fee on a letter (AND had to go collect it!) just because the postage was 1 or 2p short?!! That’s a result of the new and confusing ‘pricing in proportion’ rules.

We don’t understand the various price ranges either! It’s basically a scam to catch people out and make many thousands of £1 handling fee charges everyday. The same aplies with international handling charges which have just doubled to £8 – por que? Again, profit is the driving foce here NOT service. In terms of a future delivery force, as outlined above, Royal Mail managements long-term aim is easily hired&fired part-time casual staff and students being the majority of the delivery workforce. This would lead to an ammateurish, ill-informed (in terms of local knowlegde), ever-changing group of unchecked workers loosing your mail or worse, stealing it to suppliment their terrible minimum-wage wages! Such staff need no pension provision which is convienient as the company are desperately trying to close the pension scheme to new staff.

As we posties all say to ourselves regularly – ‘the public think the service is bad now, they ‘aint seen nuthin’ yet’.

Q. So Royal Mail want to cut and cut, what is their ultimate aim here for the postal service and why should I care?

A. OK were not stupid, we know the current management at Royal Mail were put in place to ‘costcut’ the company and ready it for privitisation. To some this is the ultimate way to make the service ‘better’. Well, ‘better’ for the public and ‘better’ for the board of directors at Royal Mail and private investors are almost certainly mutually exclusive concepts. You may be shocked to hear that the CEO of Royal Mail, Adam Crozier, is the highest remumerated civil servant in the UK.

Yes, that actually IS true. In an apparently ‘failing company’ the guy at the top gets around 3-
4million pounds a year in wages and bonuses. And his mates on the board get plenty too with massive pension pots recently set up by them, for them. But the thing is, the company IS NOT FAILING. This year profits were announced of…321Million pounds for Royal Mail Plc. Now if posties WERE swanning around doing not much then that would be a great advert for swanning about not doing much!

But infact the story is MUCH brighter than that. Last year the company had to pay 850Million pounds into their pension fund black-hole. Yes, so before that ‘unique’ cost the company made over a BILLION pounds profit. Actually, lets be precise here, 1BILLION 171MILLION pounds profit – in one year. Keep on swanning posties! And before you pick your jaw up off the ground, during the past few years there have been huge one-off investments in new machinery meaning profits will be even higher in the future. All this, the company and the government wants to hand over to private investors via privitisation.

They certainly want to privitise the company wholly but in more publicly acceptable stages. And if this happens your service will steadily disintegrate while all the profits will be taken away by Dutch Post aka TNT or some other organisation. You should care about this because your service is likely to get much much worse interms of reliablility, timelyness (is that a word? Ed.) and security. You’re still reading this? Well done! Long isn’t it?

Q. So the company is actually creating vast ammounts of profit? Then why is this strike happening?!?

A. Two answers – the pension-fund black hole and ‘down-stream access’. The pension-fund black hole varies but stands at around 3-10Billion pounds on current forcasts. This massive shortfall in the fund was cased by a 13year ‘pension holiday’ that Royal Mail took from 1990-2003. During this period postal staff still made THEIR pension contributions but the company didn’t pay their share into the pension fund. This was allowed by a change in pension law – introduced by Margaret Thatcher – and the result is a massive black-hole that, as shown above, absorbs most of Royal Mails profit each and every year. So the black-hole is a result of mis-management (and
poor legislation) and we believe therefore that Royal Mail’s owner – the UK government – is direrctly responsible for allowing it to grow to such a devastating level and should pay it off.

If it did so Royal Mail would be one of the most truely-profitable companys in the UK – that’s because it’s workforce are efficient and extrememly hard-working. (Currently the government ARE stating they will pay off the black-hole but only if the company is privatised.

This means the tax payer pays off the defecit but then private investors reap the huge future rewards while we are cut to a part-time workforce on minimum wages! And this from a ‘Socialist’ government! In the not so distant past the government made massive revenues from Royal Mail and that should be the case again – private companies should not be taking the profits of this public service once it gets back into being a great institution.) And secondly, ‘down-stream access’ (introduced by Labour Party liberalisation of the postal market!) allows companied like TNT and UKMail to strip massive ammounts of revenue from Royal Mail. Before liberalisation of the postal market a letter may have made Royal Mail 10p profit, now delivering TNT’s own processed mail may make the company 3p or even make a 2p loss! These companies have been allowed to ‘asset-strip’ the postal service as they take the most profitable parts of the delivery network and Royal Mail are left with the less profitable parts – ie delivering to the Outer Hebrides, quiet housing estates or collecting from rural postboxes. Despite these two massive wedges squeezing Royal Mail the staff are so efficient and hardworking they STILL made a 321Million pound profit last year. How can this be done by lazy postmen swanning around doing no work?! Incredible!! It isn’t possible is it?

The fact is, postmen work hard, harder than most other workers in the UK and the balance sheet proves it.

Q. How can you say posties work hard? Give their cushy jobs to the unemployed they would jump at the chance.

A. Quite a few posties are ex-services and many have a wealth of other work-experience. Without fail most of these guys see the job as the hardest but also the most unrewarding job they have ever done. In short, it’s a crap job and has been since the second delivery was abolished.

The work-load is too high and the managers bully and harass you regularly. In one delivery office in the South recently 10 new part-timers were taken on after voluntary redundancies of full-time staff. Within 2weeks 8 of these new starters had left. They couldn’t handle the sheer volume of work and prefered to go back to the dole. It’s taken months and many new starters and people leaving to eventually fill the positions and it’s been mostly hard-working Polish nationals who have had the determination to take this tough job on. All those new starters left without managerial harassment, they were actually given encouragement, unlike the regular postie who is berrated and bullied sometimes daily. If the job was that cushy would this happen and would we be striking on no-pay? If it was so cushy why, with 1.6% of the UK workforce do Royal Mail postal workers have 10% of the UK’s musculoskeletal work-inflicted injuries?

Q. OK OK I’m getting the idea now. Funny, I thought what the papers were saying was actually true! Anything else you want to moan about then?

A. Yes actually. Our retirement age is being upped to 65 and though that seems to be the norm these days this job involves hard manual labour and it’s not right to tell a 60 year old he/she has to struggle on for another 5 years to get their full pension. If you have a look at a lot of the older guys in the job a high proportion of them have sciatica, dodgy backs, bad knees, limps or bad feet (and wild starring eyes – Ed.). The job takes it’s toll alright and 65 is not realistic, so most guys are being denied their hard-earned full pension becasue they won’t be capable of working to 65. Not right damn it, not by a long way.

Q. OK so you’ve said what Royal Mail want – now what does the Union want and is it unrealistic? I don’t have all day by the way.

A. No probs, I’ll keep it simple. The union want nothing – except to represent us posties. Believe it or not we employ the CWU to talk and negotiate with Royal Mail on our behalf because we are too busy walking round with overweight bags on our shoulders to do this ourselves! So what do the posties want? Shorter rounds. We want a fair and independently assesed workload so that no longer are we asked – or forced – to take out more heavy bags of mail than it is physically possible to deliver in the 3 1/2 hours we are given.

For the sake of our health and wellbeing, and thequality of the service this is essential. In essence, we want an end to being expected to do 5hours delivery work in 3 1/2 hours. If this single step was introduced – a fair independently assessd workload – every postie in the country would be back at work. That is guaranted because every postie at Royal Mail is hard working and dedicated to the job – otherwise they would have left a long time ago as many have. Now would that bankrupt the company? No.

Profits are massive as said and we work hard and efficiently, and are ready to embrace new indoor sorting machines to ensure the profits remain massive. The company is strong and employing more delivery-only postmen (part-timers) will not make this company fail. Infact it will substantially improve the service and bring residential and buisness customers back – what we all want! We are not unrealistic, we’re not talking about going back to 2bag deliveries, but 8bags in 3 1/2 hours, 800 houses, 70-100KG of mail per delivery is simply not sustainable, infact it’s insane. Hard working staff are being forced by threats of being sacked or seriously disciplined to work-on and deliver past their hours for nothing.

That is immoral, it’s everyday at Royal Mail, it’s wrong, illegal, and it must stop. In the mail centres the guys and girls there simply want assurances they wont in large numbers be sacked without warning or consultation. More efficient machines are the way forward, the staff and the union agree, but the answer to their introduction is not to suddenly sack tens of thousands of dedicated long-term staff! A restructuring plan is the solution not execuive action which will see massive sackings when stff could be moved around the company into deliveries or take voluntary reduced hours. Simple as that, indoor staff want assurances, job security, respect at work and no more harasassment and bullying. That’s the strory of this strike. No kidding, that’s it. Unreasonable?

We think not. We know the company has a huge potential for a great service AND massive profits and that’s what we want, respect at work, a fair work-load and a successful company.

So in summary if you want Royal Mail’s wonderful service that you rely on daily to get even worse (and it CAN get a lot lot worse) then support the current Royal Mail management team and their standard-bearer Lord Peter Benjamin Mandelson (aka Baron Mandelson). Who’s laughing at the back there? And, if you want your service to get better (and it CAN as you probably know get a LOT better) then support the guys and girls who know the job, do it everyday and make huge profits for the company by being efficient and hard-working. Vote now! Support a fair work-load for postal workers and your great service will follow. That’s 100% Postie guaranteed!!

Thanks for reading, and we hope your postal service remains that, a service, and not a dissservice. Written by a postie with contributions for accuracy from many many experienced posties at www.RoyalMailChat.co.uk

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