As a PE (Postal Executive) member I made the decision for the reasons below to endorse the negotiators agreement.
I know full well not everyone will agree with the agreement and/or my views in this post and I fully respect individuals have the right to voice that in all forums and through the forthcoming ballot but that should be in a respectful manner and it is important that the context and overall summary is put forward.
Apologies for the long post but is needed.
To All CWU Members
The purpose of this communication is to explain the proposed National Agreement and expand on all aspects of document and then subsequently provide the narrative and positioning set against the previous Royal Mail proposals and also an outline between the companies Best & Final Offer in November 2022 versus the National Agreement which CWU members will be asked to vote on.
Before setting out each area of the agreement, it is important that every CWU member remembers the background to the dispute which without doubt has been the bitterest, intense and brutal trade dispute in the history of the CWU and the Trade Union movement.
It is clear that in 2022, the business and the senior management team had decided to attack the CWU and its members through the changes in which they were proposing and at the same time seeking to crush the CWU to ensure the representation our members get across all levels of the business would be weakened to enable those attacks to members terms and conditions to be easier and a daily occurrence as ultimately that wanted a relationship which was purely a consultative role for the union.
However, whilst without doubt the last 12 months has taken its toll on our members in all workplaces. The fact CWU members supported the dispute in the way they have throughout the last 9 months, via 3 National Ballots on pay, pay & change and then having to re-ballot due to the trade union legislation, it is clear and a fundamental reason that it is only because of CWU members resolve, sacrifices, strength and solidarity as to why the business have been forced into intense negotiations over the last few months and ensured a National Agreement with the CWU on behalf of our members has been achieved.
In reviewing the whole agreement it is also important to focus on the introduction section in which the business have agreed and confirmed that change has to be by taking the workforce (our members) with it, that working to deploy change successfully can only be done together and through joint activity and recognising that postal workers (our members) play a unique role in every community across the UK and that the spirit and intent of the agreement applies in full.
Whilst that will be difficult for our members to believe given the attacks over the last 12 months it is imperative that every CWU Branch, Representative and Member views the National Agreement against that backdrop and that we were always going to have to agree aspects which would be difficult for everyone and therefore the agreement needs to be reviewed as a complete package and not on certain aspects which we all have to accept would be unpalatable in other times.
Job Security Commitments
Royal Mail Group Previous Position – The businesses original position was that they would not commit to avoiding compulsory redundancies and then they only moved to a position where they would seek to but only if it was possible. They then stated there would be no compulsory redundancies until end of March 2023 and subsequently they then gave a further guarantee around no compulsory redundancies but confirmed it would not be in any agreement and is a commitment only to employees by the senior managers who signed a statement issued to members.
On owner drivers the business intention was to cease employment of all new entrants in PFW (Parcelforce) and seek to increase the number of owner drivers to ensure it can complete and survive.
Section 3 of Agreement – Confirmed that NO compulsory redundancies for the life of the agreement and written into it. Any headcount reductions will be through natural attrition (VR, Agency & Casuals). No gig economy resourcing models, no outsourcing and franchising written into an agreement. No increase in the level of owner drivers in PFW (Parcelforce) as there will be an immediate freeze on recruitment put in place and confirmation none in the Core RM USO operation. Confirmation that RM remains committed to a FT employment model.
Summary – It is clear that there have been significant gains in relation to Job Security commitments, it is equally important to remember that all those protections have now been confirmed within section 3 of the agreement; something the business stated would not happen in September 2022. Whilst MTSF terms have changed and have been unable to be reversed, individuals will make their own choice on whether to take VR based on the terms at the time, but clearly compulsory redundancy terms would have been significantly worse and the whole of section 3 is a significant achievement.
Pay Offer and Allowances
Royal Mail Group Previous Position – Imposed 2% pay increase in July 2022 (backdated to April 22) and a further 3.5% available subject to agreeing changes as part of the deal and ‘above and beyond’ bonus offer, total 5.5% offer. That then was revised as part of the RMG ‘Best & Final’ offer in November 2022 which moved to an 18 month offer made of 7% pay/salary increase and one off lump sum of circa £500 (RM stated meant 9% rise) broken down into 2% imposed, 3.5% at date of agreement and 1.5% from 1st April 2023 plus £500 at time of a implementation of successful revision.
In PFW (Parcelforce) 7% pay increase only, the lump sum was not applicable to PFW members and in Fleet a separate pay agreement linked to significant changes.
RMG previous position on Allowances – Previously the business had stated that Recruitment Retention Incentive Scheme (RRIS) phased/removed over 3 years, Sunday Premium was to be phased/removed over 3 years (loss of circa £6 per hour) and a further circa 12 allowances (including the MGV and TPM allowance) had been proposed to be removed and buyouts from employees based on either 1 or 2 years’ worth of monies based on either 2 or 4 payments depending on the relevant allowance and in total that impacted on over 45,000 members and depending on age and how long individuals work in the future the loss of money as part of the proposals was significant.
Section 4 of Agreement – The CWU have managed to ensure the best and final offer has been increased and extended the offer until April 2025, so in essence moved to a 3 year deal. Whilst there were two options put to the CWU, the agreement will be the following option as it fundamentally gave more money to CWU members as an overall package:
• 10% three year pay deal, plus £500 lump sum payment* • broken down as 2% pay rise from April 2022 (already paid) • 6% from April 2023 plus the lump sum of £500 above paid • 2% from April 2024. • It has been agreed that those salary increases will also flow through to O/T, S/A rates, basic pay and functional supplements, relevant allowances and London weighting.
In addition to the above, it has been agreed that subject to deployment of Indoor Method changes, employees that receive functional supplements at that date will have £11.18 of that supplement/payment consolidated into base pay.
Summary – Clearly the revised offer does demonstrate that the business mantra of no more money and that it was their best and final in 2022 simply wasn’t true, which further confirms the mismanagement of the company during the dispute. In addition for circa 45,000 employees the removal of allowance buyouts and existing payments is a significant achievement. The money on offer in any pay deal or national agreement will always be judged at the time and everyone will always want more regardless of what any figure is, but at this time that will have to be exactly the case. There however are other factors which have been achieved and that is a new Profit Share scheme to be developed with the first 20% of any adjusted profits shared with employees via a bonus payments and further commitments to continue towards a shorter working week which will need to be considered in future years as the role of postal workers changes.
Seasonal Variation, Flexitime, Yearly Flexible Hours
RM Previous Position – The business original position was that in the lighter traffic periods (summer) employees would work 32 hours and in the heavier traffic periods (autumn/winter) employees would work circa 44 hours per week. Alongside that the business wanted to introduce shift changes and working patterns with four to ten weeks’ notice. In addition the proposal was to include scan in/scan out data and link that to payroll.
In conjunction with those subjects the proposal was to move to trials and national roll out of a yearly banking system of hours where employees would be required to make up time as required by RM and time owed to employees would be taken at a time only agreed by management. Furthermore the business proposal in essence meant individuals did not have a defined finish time and would commit to delivery regardless of workload/duty times.
Section 6.1.1 of Agreement – Weekly hours in Delivery now agreed at a maximum variation of 2 hours per week. Three agreed period across the year meaning summer period (14 weeks) working 35 hours, normal period (24 weeks) working contractual 37 hours and autumn period (14 weeks) working 39 hours. For full time employees that would mean 24 minutes per day. The agreement is also clear that in the autumn periods when working 39 hours that extra 24 mins per day time will be at the start of duties to protect the agreed finish times. In the summer periods when working 35 hours, 24 minutes less per day the time will be split between starting 14 minutes later and finishing 10 minutes earlier. Pilot activity will commence in 10 units nationally to enable all learning to be collated and ensure moving to National Deployment in week 24 this year will be via agreed guidelines.
In relation to Flexitime and Yearly Flex Hours, they have been completely removed from the agreement and replaced with a review of the existing 30 minute flexibility agreement which has been in place since 2007 and was agreed as part of the Pay & Modernisation Agreement. As such it has been agreed to review how that is being applied and what arrangements in place, alongside the deployment of seasonal variation to subsequently jointly launch a revised approach by the end of July 2023.
Summary – The change to seasonal variation is in line with the CWU proposals agreed in March 2022 by Postal Branches at the CWU Policy Forum and would support the removal and reduction of absorption and lapsing in delivery, which is an absolutely key point for every member. In addition the plan would be to ensure that every employee would know at the start of every calendar/financial year which weeks and periods the three cycles would fall on to ensure better resourcing and planning is in place and to remove the planned constant changes to working patterns every four to ten weeks which RM had proposed. Without doubt the agreement will provide certainty for all delivery employees on working patterns and hours worked each week, which is a stark contrast to what RM had proposed and is a significant gain in the agreement and whilst some of our members might have concerns about the concept, once we move to deployment I am sure the benefits will be seen by everyone.
Section 6.2 – Network Window and Later start/finish times
RM Previous Position – Proposal was to move to a last letter time of 17:00 (current specification was 15:30 urban/town and 16:30 rural) for most employees over a three year period or sooner. In addition that would have meant the network being delayed up to 3 hours and in September 2023 Delivery start times would move by up to an hour. That meant the business would be able to make changes to the Air Network and removal of flights/sectors and cessation of some Airport Hub operations. Furthermore it then became clear via the businesses own communications that the proposed last letter time in Delivery also meant changes in Network, Processing and Distribution and subsequent changes in those functions meant changes to duty times between one and three hours and some movement between Night & Early shifts, affecting circa 10% of employees in Network and 50% of employees in Distribution.
The business stated plans would be put in place to create family friendly duty options but that would only be dependent on wherever operationally practical.
Proposed Agreement – No changes at all to start and finish times in 2023. During March 2024 last letter Delivery completion times will move up to 16:30 for both urban and rural areas. However is agreed that finish times will vary and the majority of deliveries will be completed before 15:30, vast majority by 16:00 and a small exceptional number of rural deliveries will continue to completed later.
It is written into the agreement that it is finally accepted by the business that it is a major issue and they commit to minimise change in start/finish times, via National & Joint Working Groups to ensure that the Pipeline, work flow and Mail Centre cycle time is improved to limit any changes up to a maximum of 60 minutes with the as much workload connecting with core delivery.
The National/Local working groups between May & September 2023 will jointly model all associated impact to find the necessary solutions to ensure the maximum of 60 minutes is adhered to and that the pipeline is consistently able to meet that aspect. There is a clause for both parties in that where the above does not make it possible to limit the change up to 60 minutes, during March 2024 change in start & finish times would move up to a maximum of 90 minutes.
Changes in the operations relating to Network, Processing, Distribution and Air Hubs will be phased in the same time frame and the same principles of maximum attendance times changing in Mail Centres of 90 minutes and confirmation of annual revisions in National & Regional Distribution. In addition confirmation has been included within the Agreement that due to the above changes to the business plans, that there will be no Mail Centre Closures which is a further achievement given the removal of the 3 hour later finishes being capped to the maximum of 90 minutes and ultimately the joint commitment to make that 60 minutes.
Summary – Clearly this was one of the major issues with the dispute and finding an agreement as a result of the proposed change of a later network of 3 hours due to the removal of air services/flights and subsequent impact on Delivery of most employees’ last letter of 17:00 has been incredibly challenging.
The change has always been driven by the removal of Air Flights due to the environmental impact, cost and growth in parcel traffic unable to be flown; in addition the negotiations have been undertaken at a time when the business could have chosen to cease air/flight contracts at any time and therefore the agreement puts in place a number of protections across all areas which means the CWU is fully involved to find solutions for all functions in line with the agreement.
Therefore the deferral of change in 2023 and confirmation that the change in March 2024 will be restricted to the up to 60 minutes and ensuring the majority of deliveries will be planned to complete before 15:30, which should not be lost on our Branches, Reps & Members that is currently the last letter time is a major achievement against the planned 17:00 last letter time for everyone!
Through National and Local Working Groups the CWU are confident that through these working groups we will be able to keep the impact across all functions to a minimum. I hope to be on this JWG for the CWU and 100% believe that can happen and likewise ensure the maximum of 60 minutes is fully adhered too. It will only be by undertaking the activity in Appendix 2 that we will be able to achieve that Nationally and Locally. In addition the continued commitment to a reduction in a shorter working week whilst it may not be seen currently, in future years when potentially pay is not the major issue to resolve it could 100% be used to assist earlier finishes in the future and we do need as a union to start to consider that now.
Performance Management & Data Use
RM Previous Position – The business stated they had invested tens of millions of pounds in new technology that couldn’t be used to have performance conversations and/or to improve safety. Therefore the proposal was to replace all existing National agreements that covered the use of technology and data including NCI policy and replace with a new process in which individual and team (office) performance would be used in conduct cases, self-initiated improvement plans and an approach for those falling short of standard’s.
Proposed Agreement – Data will now be used in line with agreed commitments and assurances in the agreement, furthermore it will not supersede any previous agreements and will in conjunction. It is agreed it will be used in a supportive manner and to support workplace coaches in targeted training. A revised performance process (old NCI) will be replaced with a new fit for purpose framework based on ACAS best practice. In addition a pilot on walk/route data based on safety and customer information will be trialled on the PDA via a My Performance App, but will be consistent with ACAS best practice.
Summary – Clearly given all of the tensions in the workplace over the last 12 months from the dispute, the treatment of our members in the workplace, the evidence given at Select Committee hearings and the threat of technology and data being used for Conduct and Performance was a major concern. Therefore the removal of the proposed approach and revised commitment to ACAS best practice will ensure the treatment of members in the workplace will now be able to be fully complaint with existing National Agreements which remain in place as well as the further commitments contained in Appendix 5 and whilst our members will have concerns over trust in the workplace, the words in the agreement cannot be any clearer on what data and technology can be used for and it is a complete change to the previous business proposal.
Sick Pay, Absence Policy and Ill Health Policy
RM Previous Position – In relation to Sick Pay the business proposal was the first period of an employee absence in a 12 month period would remain as normal entitlement (full pay), however for any second and subsequent absences in a 12 month period (rolling period) the first 7 days of absence would only be paid at Statutory Sick Pay (SSP). That then changed to the proposal that from day 4 of the second and subsequent absence normal sick pay terms will apply (normal pay).
In relation to the Absence policy standards the proposal was to make the attendance standards the same for each stage of the process. The standards would become 3 absences or 12 days absent, based on your attendance over a 12-month period. At the Welcome Back Meeting, your manager would tell you whether your absence would or wouldn’t count and once the standards had been breached (by absences deemed to count), then you would automatically be issued with an Attendance Review (AR1 or AR2)
In respect of leaving the Business through Ill Health (IHR) the proposal was for a taper down of the compensation payment by 1 week for every week of sick pay you have received over the previous 12 months.
Finally the business gave notice in September 2022 that the above changes would be deployed via Executive Action and be introduced from April 2023.
Proposed Agreement – The agreement is that revised policies relating to sick pay, absence/attendance standards and Leaving via Ill Health will be introduced from 1st August 2023. On sick pay terms for second absences in a rolling 12 month period only the first two days of that absence will be paid at SSP, for a third absence in a rolling 12 month period it increases to the first four days will be paid at SSP and for forth and subsequent absences in a rolling 12 month period it decreases to first three days will be paid at SSP.
In relation to the above changes on sick pay the agreement has also put in place a review clause every 6 months, in which if the national average of absence rates drops below 5.5% then the full sick pay terms will be reintroduced from the next period. However likewise if that happens and in future 6 monthly periods the absence rates increase on a national average back above 5.5% then the sick pay terms would revert back.
In terms of the absence/attendance standards the agreement moves to a standard of 3 absences or 12 days over a rolling 12 month period for each stage of the attendance reviews.
Further activity relating to Welcome Back Meetings, regarding CWU Representation and the future role and application of them in the process to support the employee and whether or not the absence counts towards the attendance standards based on the managers discretion, will be subject to further joint working group activity to resolve all associated issues with the next 3 months.
In respect of Leaving via Ill Health, the agreement is that a fixed compensation payment of 16 weeks will apply and then in addition a payment of lieu of notice and accrued but untaken annual leave added to the overall amounts.
Summary – Whilst the changes to sick pay, absence/attendance standards and leaving via Ill Health will be a disappointment to CWU members, there have been through the negotiations gains made against the businesses previous proposals and the best and final offer.
The addition of the review clauses relating to sick pay and attendance standards is something in which we have to ensure every area which are concerns to our members and the CWU are dealt with and use those reviews as the platform to make further improvements on what has been the most difficult areas to reach and an overall agreement on.
New Entrants terms and conditions
RM Previous Position – Originally stated wanted to employ new starters on different terms whilst retaining the best pay, pensions and conditions in the industry. That then led to new entrants being employed from November 2022 on inferior terms and condition with Full Time pay rates being based against a 40 hour week, monthly pay, no paid meal reliefs and working patterns five days over seven (with Sundays on a lesser pay rate). A combination that meant new entrants would be employed on circa 20% less pay and terms than current existing employees.
Developments in the negotiations moved to the business proposing those new entrants’ terms and conditions would level up to parity on pay and pensions over a 5 year period.
Proposed Agreement – The agreement makes it clear it is the company that agreed to introduce those new terms and conditions and going forwards all new entrants will be part of the CWU collective bargaining and all agreements with the CWU.
In addition a joint working group will be established to review how new entrants contracts are operating and consider alternative approaches including a new grade, Sunday working, flexible work locations and use against growth and dedicated parcel duties. Furthermore how a single optimised parcel network impacts on new entrants, as well as reviewing pay and conditions across the postal industry and broader labour market and campaigning jointly to level up terms and for RMG to be the benchmark across the postal industry.
Summary – Whilst we would have wanted to have achieved pay and pension parity for new entrants from day one, we already have a 12 month policy for levelling up in place. The CWU did propose and pursue revised three year duration for levelling up parity to take place, however the business would not move their position and a decision had to be made regarding the whole agreement as a package and no more could be gained via negotiation on that point.
The other point for seeking to reach an agreement on the revised approach to reviews and joint working groups is that now new entrants will be able to join the pension scheme after 1 years’ service, when previously RMGs policy had been a 5 year period. Therefore that gain means new entrants who opt in for the pension scheme will pay into the pension plan for 4 years they previously wouldn’t have been able to and furthermore means the business also will have to pay for an increased 4 year period which wasn’t part of their proposal.
USO/Revision Activity – Summary – The union has maintained all the way through the dispute and in joint statements that revisions planned purely on budgets and efficiency targets cannot be the right direction for the company, the customer and the impact on our members within the workplace. The adherence to USO compliance and standards has to be achieved through any revision and likewise so does ensuring Quality of Service is achieved and section 2.5 with a revised process for USO compliance and Quality of Service processes being agreed and overseen by RODs and Divisional Reps will be something all structures of the CWU will need to enforce and hold the business to account on.
Indoor Methods Change –Summary – Royal Mail have always believed that since 2015 there has been a different way in which the indoor operation in Delivery could be undertaken which would bring with it increased efficiencies and time benefits. To date a number of trials relating to Bench Merging, Multi Bundle delivery have not proven successful, however the business view is that there is a method which can save around 20-35 minutes per duty, per day when rolled out nationally and as part of the agreement, both parties have agreed to conduct numerous trials to test the whether that is achievable or not with no preconditions in place and set against a success criteria in line with section 7 of the agreement.
Any subsequent outputs to facilitate national deployment would be from August 2023, however it would also mean that the lowest aspect of the functional allowances circa £11.18 (for employees who receive at the date of the agreement) would be consolidated into basic pay as per section 4 terms and that would mean every year going forward eligible employees pensionable pay increases.
Future Network / Sunday Working / 24/7 operations – Summary – The CWU agreed in 2018 (Four Pillars Agreement) to the creation of LAT Hubs delivering parcels which entered the pipeline later and to be delivered in the PM period from over 300 Units. Since then we further agreed in 2020 (Pathway to Change Agreement) for the introduction of Dedicated Parcel Duties (DPRs) delivering the larger format 3/4 parcels on designed parcel routes and where possible combined with LAT items.
Since the above has taken place, the business have built two new Super Hubs in North West Hub and the Midlands Hub (going live in June 2023), both of those Parcel Hubs have the ability to sort larger format 3/4 parcels direct to delivery depot level for the units own traffic and the surrounding postcode area, ensuring that 85% of all parcels continue to be delivered through the core USO network (delivery).
As such the agreement also agrees in principle to the creation of a Single Parcel Network and a strategic review to inform the best approach to use the Parcel Hubs, 346 DPR depots and Parcelforce Depots to operate Parcel duties and where necessary to utilise the capability of both Networks and create synergises between them to cover the entire UK, that will include Sundays which will remain voluntary for those that volunteer to work duties and be paid the Sunday Premium.
The move to a strategic principle of one single parcel network, has also ensured that Owners Drivers being recruited into PFW has frozen with immediate effect. This will ensure that going forwards we can reach agreement for a levelling up of all terms and conditions, enhanced and innovative attendance patterns and furthermore a revised hybrid reward/earning model to benefit both parties.
Suspension & Conduct Cases – Summary – The CWU has maintained throughout the dispute that the treatment of CWU members and representatives has been an overzealous approach by the business controlled from the centre and individuals have been targeted and subjected to a zero tolerance approach from the business relating to every single matter linked to the dispute and as a result have been operating outside of the National Conduct Agreement and working to a revised managerial policy guide.
Numerous cases and examples exist in place and to ensure confidence and trust can be rebuilt an independent process has been agreed that will be overseen by the Right Honourable Lord Falconer of Thoroton with an agreed terms of reference to ensure a review of all conduct cases, suspensions and dismissals during the course of 2022/23 is undertaken in a fair, independent and balanced view to ensuring a resolution is found and will be binding on all parties.
Having seen and witnessed first-hand the appalling treatment of our members and representatives over the last 9 months and linked to the dispute, this approach is a major and significant gain and without doubt the business did not want to agree this and have it in any final agreement and the fact it is in the agreement means even when managers continue to target members and representatives they will continue to have the ability for their own cases to be dealt with via an independent process, which will ensure integrity will be upheld. Likewise it will also expose managers who are hiding behind conducting investigations and not making decisions against the alleged behaviours and/or conduct on the merits and merely making decisions which are taken by the centre and for them to merely rubberstamp!!
This has been a National dispute like none other before, CWU members have taken 17 days of industrial action, been targeted in the workplace and the attacks on terms and conditions from the businesses ‘Best and Final’ offer have been unprecedented.
Everyone will have parts of the agreement that they do not like or that they wish could be better, but be under no illusion whatsoever, no one can forget that the business stated ‘it was their business to run’ and the role of the CWU in the workplace and the ‘modernised relationship/ways of working with the CWU’ actually meant the dispute was about removing the CWU from representing our members and completely ripping up national agreements to attack our members terms and conditions now and for future years to come.
There have been so many changes to the RM proposals from their original ‘The Change we Need’ in June 2022 and then ‘Best and Final ‘offer from November 2022, that it can be hard to see what gains have been achieved through industrial action and in the proposed national agreement which has been endorsed by the Postal Executive and will be subject to an individual members ballot.
However in producing this document I hope that it helps CWU Members, Representatives and all structures of the CWU, to remember everything that has taken place over the last 9 months and likewise, what has been achieved through every CWU member supporting the dispute, each other and making huge sacrifices along the way.
I would also urge everyone to reflect and consider the agreement in the overall context of all of the above points and areas which the CWU has made significant gains but alongside the fact that the company is genuinely in a precarious position financially due to their own mismanagement, something we have fundamental issues with but cannot undo or turn a blind eye against. Next month the company will announce significant losses over £400 million and with that and no agreement in place will without doubt place greater pressure on every single job and no responsible trade union can take that gamble for our member’s futures.
As a PE member I made the decision for the reasons above to endorse the negotiators agreement, I know full well not everyone will agree with the agreement and/or my views in this document and I fully respect individuals have the right to voice that in all forums and through the forthcoming ballot.
However, I firmly believe that now is the time for our member ‘the union’ to come together, hold the business to account on every word within the agreement and ensure we play our part in the future success of the company which will mean we protect our jobs and terms and conditions, failure to do so will have consequences none of us could even imagine.
Tony Bouch - PEC Member in a personal capacity.