Pathway to Change: Royal Mail Processing, Distribution
“Our industry’s prospects are much brighter today than they were this time last year,” Davie Robertson tells CWU.org, as he looks ahead to this evening’s big Facebook broadcast.
“Just 12 months ago, we were being told to expect between 10,000 and 14,000 job losses, unit closures, and parcels being taken out of most of our network,” he recalls, adding that this was part of the “negative” and “managed decline” philosophy of the then recently installed head of Royal Mail Group.
The company was to be split up and long-established agreements and longstanding negotiation procedures were to be ditched for a new regime based on one-sided dictat.
“But,” Davie explains, “two important things happened. Firstly, our members stood up and said: ‘No’. Standing together in unity, they rejected that vision for their future and returned a massive ballot mandate for strike action.
“And then, in light of the Covid crisis, our members stepped up and proudly took on the mantle of key workers during the most serious national emergency since World War Two, serving the people of this country by connecting families during lockdown and also playing the major role in the processing, distribution and logistics of the vital Covid test kits campaign.
“The magnificent ballot result told Royal Mail at the time that we would not accept their negative and damaging vision for the future – and the magnificent efforts members all made, and continue to make, during the pandemic reminded the whole nation, once again, of what a vitally important service our members provide,” he adds.
These have been the key factors in firstly enabling a positive change of leadership at the top of the company and then a positive change of attitude enabling this union and this company to negotiate meaningfully and to work together to create a shared and joint vision for the future.
“This agreement – Pathway to Change – represents a huge step forward for both sides and a dramatic turnaround compared to what we were facing a year ago,” Davie continues, adding: “As well as a good pay rise, the deal also reaffirms job security, renews previous commitments to the integrity of Royal Mail Group, returns us to the principle of working together, and brings us back on track in terms of the shorter working week.
“In terms of our Processing, Distribution and Logistics functions, we now have a commitment to the current estate – there are no planned closures of mail centres or RDCs – and the success of our efforts to retain Romford Mail Centre, which had been earmarked for closure, is a clear proof of this.
“There’s also a policy now of maximising capacity in our existing network and expanding the use of parcel sorting machines (PSM) – where practicable – into every mail centre, which is another big step in the right direction. We now have 20 PSMs across 16 units, with a further four at the planning stage,” Davie points out. “And this investment in the current pipeline ensures a future beyond, and not solely based, on the parcel hubs, which are still some way off.”
On technology, where the previous regime intended to impose this unilaterally, there is now have a firm commitment to moving forward these issues forward through consensus and agreement. Resource Scheduler (RS), for example, will again be trialled with agreed terms of reference.
“Although we still have some significant reservations with RS, it’s our view that CWU input, our critique and our joint involvement in this process is in members’ best interests” says Davie.
And a system previously known as Automated Hours Data Capture (AHDC) has now been rebranded as Scan In/Scan Out (SISO) and is set to be introduced now that the company has agreed to CWU requests for the application of relevant safeguards.
Our assistant secretary explains: “Now that the business has committed to what are industry-leading safeguards ensuring that technology cannot be misused for inappropriate purposes, directly affect pay or undermine the role of the union in the workplace – we’re of the view that this can be introduced successfully, subject to those agreed safeguards and protocols being adhered to.”
Revision activity – including realignment revisions in our Processing sites (MCs, RDCs, WBCs, air hubs), PAD revisions and a network (linehaul) review – will be forthcoming and will represent ‘triggers’ for the scheduled one hour working week reduction or equivalent benefit.
“And of course, in the current climate, all activity must be Covid compliant and ensure the safety of our members,” he assures members.
A joint focus on pipeline redesign is very much back on the agenda now and Davie and his fellow officers will engage in joint activity with the business to ensure that the future pipeline is designed from a mutual interest standpoint.
“We’re meeting later this week and we’re looking forward to putting some meat on the bones in terms of where we, as a company, want to be in the future,” Davie tells us, but adds that, “due to the ongoing crisis and the extremely high current work volumes – we’re still at peak and there’s no sign of a drop-off – much of this will be future planning rather than immediate application and deployment at this time.”
He mentions again what a marked change there has been across the functions over the past period and also predicts that increased parcel traffic may be here to stay, commenting that home shopping could well become a habit for millions who have perhaps ordered online for the first time during the Covid crisis.
“The huge increases in traffic volume and volumetric means that, with the Logistics/Distribution revision activity, the union believes that there is a need for a large-scale recruitment campaign to cope, providing opportunities for our members to progress to professional driver roles, which is another indication of how much has changed” says Davie.
“And, following on from our members’ sterling efforts on test kits, it’s possible that our network could be called on again to assist with the nationwide vaccination distribution.”
Davie is enthusiastic about the Pathway to Change agreement and in a direct message to Processing, Distribution and Logistics members, he’s strongly urging them to “please give us another big, big Yes vote.
“Your approval of this agreement will enable us to work together within Royal Mail to build a really positive future for all,” he says.
“And I’m really looking forward to this evening’s Facebook-live session at 7pm, so please join me if you can, it’ll be great to talk with as many of you as possible.”
• View tonight’s session on CWU Facebook page