Terms of Reference between Royal Mail and the CWU Covering the Deployment of Manual Optimised Sort Selections (OSS) at Two Trial Mail Centres and the Consequential Impact on the Delivery Offices

Terms of Reference between Royal Mail and the CWU Covering the Deployment of Manual Optimised Sort Selections (OSS) at Two Trial Mail Centres and the Consequential Impact on the Delivery Offices 


Dear Colleagues


Branches are informed that in late January 2016 the Union was approached by the business in relation to reviewing Mail Centre manual sort selections under a project titled Optimised Sort Selections (OSS). The business proposal related to activity in Mail Centres to standardise 64 selection sort frames for manual and large letters across the Network, reducing the need for secondary sortation on Inward and Outward.  


The business’ view was that the variations in sort selections had evolved over a long period of time and had never been reviewed against a National set of principles that seek to balance workload and optimise sortation.


Given that the proposals that were presented potentially impacted on both Mail Centres and Delivery units we believed that the issue needed to be progressed via both departments and therefore cross departmental discussions have been taking place with the business.  


In order to facilitate the trial the attached Terms of Reference have now been agreed and endorsed by the Postal Executive.


The overall aim of this trial is to assess the realistic benefits that can be achieved, verify the base data held centrally and understand the implications for any proposed National deployment.


The trial will involve two Mail Centre areas:


1. Warrington in the West – relatively few changes on the Inward function

2. Nottingham in the East – complex Inward changes


In addition to the above Mail Centre’s the trial will incorporate a number of Delivery Offices within each of the trial areas, details of these are appended to the Terms of Reference at Annex A.


Branches and representatives will note that attendance patterns and earnings packages are protected during the duration of the trial activity and that the full involvement of CWU, IR and Health and Safety Representatives has been secured along with any necessary release to allow full participation. Equally, current workplan and service level agreements will be maintained throughout the trial.


The outputs of the trial will be subject to joint review and any decision on subsequent further roll out will be a matter for National agreement.  


Any enquiries in relation to this LTB should be addressed to Davie Robertson, Assistant Secretary, email: dwyatt@cwu.org or shayman@cwu.org quoting reference number: 714.17




Mark Baulch, Acting Assistant Secretary, email outdoorsecretary@cwu.org quoting reference number: 535


Yours sincerely



Davie Robertson​​​​​Mark Baulch

Assistant Secretary​​​​​Acting Assistant Secretary






Royal Mail and the Communication Workers Union are working together in developing key business policies, mutual interest solutions and a new culture, which is at the core of all the commitments contained in the BT2010 Agreement and the Agenda for Growth, Stability and Long Term Success Agreement.


Both parties recognise that creating the right IR and joint working environment is key to the general success of the Operation, and are committed to achieving the above by jointly resolving all local and wider operational issues, without recourse to disagreement wherever possible.


In line with the National Generic Trial Framework both parties have agreed to jointly assess the potential benefits from reviewing the manual sortation of letters and large letters (not parcels/packets) in Mail Centres and any consequential realignment of the manual sortation requirements in Delivery Offices.


It has therefore been agreed to jointly trial the reviewed sorting arrangements in two Mail Centre areas:


The Mail Centre areas are:


1.​Warrington in the West – relatively few changes on the Inward function

2. ​Nottingham in the East – complex Inward changes


The overall aim of this trial is to assess the realistic benefits that can be achieved, verify the base data held centrally and understand the implications for any proposed National deployment.



Joint Involvement/Information Share


Local managers and CWU IR, and H&S Representative(s) will be fully involved in all aspects of the trials, from the initial stages, throughout planning and then the reviews of what is found. Appropriate Union release time will be provided for the CWU Representatives to ensure full and meaningful involvement.


Joint involvement will enable the development of mutual understanding of the elements under consideration and the potential impact on both individuals and the operation. It will also enable us to identify any issues requiring clarification or further investigation.


The trials will be conducted on the basis of joint timely access to all relevant information/data.



Trial Activity Details


➢ The trial deployment activities will take place at Warrington and Nottingham Mail Centres, including a number of delivery units in each area. (see attached list of Delivery Offices)


➢ The planning will commence in May 2016, with deployment of the standard sortation changes during May-June 2016


➢ The new sortation will be performed on current 64 box letter fittings, with no impact therefore on Health and Safety


➢ It is anticipated that the new sortation will reduce workload and therefore the number of hours required to perform the sorting tasks may also reduce. During the trial activity the potential impact of any reduction on agreed resourcing arrangements will be jointly assessed and reviewed


➢ During the trial activity, there will be no reduction in the number of AWDs, attendance patterns and earnings packages including Scheduled Attendances in trial sites and subsequently affected Delivery Offices


➢ During the trial, affected Delivery Offices will factor into the Office IWT (Indoor Workload Tool), the impact of reduced workload and/or reduced second handling workload to negate the trial’s impact on discussions due to take place during WRM (Weekly Resourcing Meetings); with Delivery Offices reviewing the need to reduce current efficiency levels in line with this joint approach


➢ There will be no reduction or alteration to current mail service level arrangements from the Mail Centre to Delivery Offices, nor will the current level of manual mail planned for each dispatch be affected. To support this each Delivery Office will confirm, and sign off, its current mail service level arrangements


➢ Any possible impact highlighted by the OSS trial on despatch patterns and arrangements will also be jointly analysed and reviewed


➢ The trial will not result in any changes or proposed changes to current floor plans within Delivery Offices, with each Delivery Office confirming in advance of the trial its current floor plans


➢ Data will be collected and jointly analysed regarding hours to sort letter mails in revised sorting frames, best practice in terms of organising/labelling the sort frames and timescales/methods to plan and implement the changes. This will inform any further deployment activity


➢ The Operators and Work Place Coaches will be trained in the changes to the operation, which will then be communicated in the form of WTLL (Work Time Listening and Learning) across all shifts, and subsequently supported by Work Place Coaches, local CWU IR Representatives and managers


➢ As part of the trial, industrial engineer studies will be held to identify any impact on planning values/core sorting rates resulting from an increase in the complexity of sorting which may result from OSS. This will then form part of wider activities in this regard as set out below  


The business has established a new set of planning values for Mail Centre activities and part of our on-going commitments will involve developing a joint understanding of these new values and how they have been developed in order to ensure that current and future activity is deployed consistent with our current agreements. Against that backdrop we will work together Nationally to ensure that the associated working arrangements within this trial and any potential future deployment, has agreed planning values. To avail this all data and measurement relevant to current or future planning values will be shared and jointly reviewed with the CWU, including trained Industrial Engineers.



Success Criteria


The trial activity will have completed and become considered for deployment when the following have been achieved:


• Zero health and safety incidents involving the solution during operation


• Mail clearance to work-plan in all affected units has been achieved with no adverse operational impact


• All operator concerns have been considered, understood and jointly resolved


• Any impact on productivity and resourcing requirements has been identified and potential efficiency/operational savings identified are tracked and recorded in accordance with the terms of the Royal Mail/CWU Joint Statement for Efficiency


A formal National Joint Evaluation will take place in June 2016 to determine whether National deployment is appropriate.



Deployment and Review


The trial activities will be formally reviewed by the signatories of this TOR. Local Managers and CWU Representatives involved will feed into this process.


Should the development of the trials be considered a success, wider deployment will be the subject of further discussions and agreement at National level.


Any questions of interpretation, implementation, or application of these Terms of Reference shall be referred to the respective Headquarters for resolution.
Davie Robertson

Assistant Secretary


Warren Cabot

Head of Processing Performance

Royal Mail



Date: 20th May 2016


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