RE: Shorter Working Week Claim – Full Time working week from 39hrs to 35hrs
Please see below CWU claim to Royal Mail for a ‘shorter working week’.
Royal Mail Group Group
HR Director 3rd Floor
100 Victoria Embankment
CWU Claim to Reduce the Full-Time Working Week from 39hrs to 35hrs
Further to our meeting on the 14th February 2017, I am writing to you to formally submit the CWU’s proposal to achieve the Union’s policy in regard to the above.
I believe it is very important to stress that this claim is not based on some fanciful desire to simply work less hours out of pure self-interest. It is a claim that the CWU believe is totally live to the current and emerging challenges of our time and our industry.
As a company you make great play of the fact that: you are one of the biggest employers in the country; you have a significant socio-economic impact in the UK; you contribute to social inclusion through employment and earnings and that you campaign for decent employment models across industry. You also say you are committed to the health and wellbeing of workers, alive and responsive to mental health and musculoskeletal issues and committed to improving the environment. It is therefore hard to believe that you are not aware of the growing academic debate on working hours, the evolving developments in the world of work and the potential benefits to companies, employees and wider society.
Leading experts in social economic and environmental science have highlighted how moving towards shorter hours of work could help tackle urgent problems that beset our daily lives from overwork, unemployment and low wellbeing to entrenched inequalities.
Over recent years, Postal Workers have felt greater pressure at work. Many members feel overworked and stressed as they endeavour to balance home life with the demanding requirements of the job, as tasks are compressed and the pace of their work increased.
Our members, your employees have faced the consequences of serious resourcing issues created by the business; greater problems taking time off/annual leave, growing concerns about the impact of automation and particularly in deliveries, longstanding issues around delivery spans and manageable workloads.
Evidence that shorter hours can boost output has been around for decades. Recent research by the New Economic Foundation (NEF) confirmed the benefits of shorter hours and set out the case for a reduced working week. According to the NEF, those who work less tend to be more productive hour for hour than those regularly pushing themselves beyond the 40 hours per week point. They are also less prone to sickness and absenteeism and therefore make up a more stable and committed workforce.
Royal Mail’s operational Lead Managers have constantly quoted to us other countries as examples of how we should work, so you should welcome our research which offers the opinion that shorter working weeks can be competitive too: the Netherlands and Germany have shorter working weeks than in Britain and the US, yet their economies are as strong or stronger. The latest trailblazers for the shorter working week are in Sweden, where a variety of major companies have cut their working week to improve wellbeing and as a result have reported significant improvements in productivity and lower rates of staff turnover.
Improved Health and Well-Being
In the UK, the truth is that despite working fewer hours than our grandparents and parents, most surveys paint a picture of British workers feeling exhausted and under growing pressure. A recent report by the Chartered Institute of Personal Development (CIPD) found many employees feel under “excessive pressure” with “far too many people doing more work than they can cope with”. It described a “wellbeing vacuum” in UK workplaces, which is costing UK employers dearly in absenteeism. These findings confirmed an earlier CIPD Report which found that;
employees felt they were working harder;
the work was more demanding and intense;
with overwhelming and numerous deadlines burdening workers with even more tasks.
Indeed by your own admission Royal Mail found that two of the major causes of long-term sickness in the business are mental illness and musculoskeletal problems. Moreover, the Mental Health Foundation states that “the pressure of an increasingly demanding work culture in the UK is perhaps the biggest and most pressing challenge to the mental health of the general population”.
Employees who work fewer hours are less prone to sickness and absenteeism and make up a more stable and committed workforce. The TUC declares Britain’s long hours culture is having a detrimental effect on productivity and health, which research has revealed to result in bad health associated with a range of physical and mental illness.
In Royal Mail, the hours and intensity of the work our members perform are increasing daily pressures and creating added stress and ill health. The Health and Safety Executive have identified the factors that can cause stress at work (if left unmanaged) and a number of these reflect the problems many of our members face in the workplace. These include feeling unable to cope with the demands of the job, not having a proper say about their work, not getting enough information and support from Managers, changes to job responsibilities and frequent changes within the organisation.
Shorter working weeks can improve productivity and spur innovation. Common sense suggests that people have better ideas and tend to get more done when they are fresh than when they have worked hours on end. Research evidence also confirms that employees who work less tend to be more productive hour for hour than those working longer hours.
Some of the happiest, most efficient and best paid nations also work the shortest hours including Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland. Germany for example is the strongest European economy but the population works fewer hours than most other major nations. On average, Germans work a 35hr week but their productivity is higher than the UK.
Better Work-Life Balance
Spending less time at work will improve employees’ work-life balance, allowing individuals to better manage their job, family and domestic responsibilities. Further research by NEF detailed that there are clear benefits for individuals, families and society from cutting working hours. Workers can spend more time with and care for their friends and families, improve the costs and availability of childcare, promote gender equality and allow people to make more of later life.
Fourth Industrial Revolution
Stealing a march on the inevitable is an influencing factor in the Union’s general thinking in regard to the ‘Pillars of Security’ we are seeking and the Fourth Industrial Revolution should not be ignored as its threat is unlike anything humankind has experienced before. The pace of technological development is frightening and the progress of issues such as artificial intelligence (AI), autonomous vehicles, 3D printing and many more threaten our members’ jobs.
Equally, we have the emergence of the ‘gig economy’. The gig economy is an environment in which temporary positions are common and businesses contract independent workers for short-term engagements. It is a way of working that is based on people having temporary jobs or doing separate pieces of work, each paid separately. Rather than working for an employer, workers eke out a living in the gig economy doing odd jobs whenever they can. These are major threats which could be hugely damaging to workers but also managerial thinking in respect of placing obsessive profiteering and shareholder return above the spirit and intent along with the security our agreements reflect. If the company is still committed to our agreements as well as the many other aspects of the CWU, they must consider the merits of the SWW.
We believe shorter working hours can help address a number of issues the business and our members face around automation, resourcing and workloads, overtime and part-time employment. It must be remembered that shorter working hours does not always translate into shorter working days but can also be used to create inventive duty patterns of less days or long and short days or weeks.
We do not believe that the move to 35hrs is a straight issue of time or pay as we all clearly have to be mindful of our members’ future standard of living. We believe that there are many layers of potential fit that can take account of all of the challenges we face, the interests of our members (your employees) and helps the company to live up to the corporate responsibility principles you present to the wider world.
In keeping with these principles, we have sought to be open and transparent with both our vision and our negotiating position. I have therefore provided below the wide range of negotiating principles agreed by the Postal Executive that we believe would enable us to move our claim forward in a mutually agreeable manner that addresses the needs of all parties:
1. We establish the principle that a full-time OPG job in Royal Mail is 35hr gross as quickly as possible.
2. All full-time jobs established from the date of the agreement will be based on 35hrs gross at the current hourly rates applicable to the appropriate grade.
3 Between the 1st April 2017 and 1st April 2019 current full-time employees and
those currently working between 35 and 39hrs gross, will see their hours reduced in three stages to 35hrs gross. New full-timers already on the 35hrs gross will see their pay increase in three stages until both hours and pay are equalised for all grades.
4. Current full-timers can take a buy down of hours to a 35hrs gross full-time job, incentivised by a two year lump sum on the difference in basic pay upon introduction of the change and then a one year lump sum thereafter.
5. Current full-timers can elect to remain on current hours as an extension of contract from the 35hrs norm and receive the appropriate new hourly rates through the transition process.
6. We do not accept that reward should be translated as hours or pay. We will have to understand management’s proposals for the next three years in respect of productivity and new technology, job reductions, the savings they envisage, shareholder targeted returns, product and revenue growth expectations, inflation and the businesses intentions in respect of pay awards over the next three years.
7. Explore the potential for local and national productivity schemes to support further reward.
8. Some members already enjoy reduced working time via protected time-bonus reward and any final agreement must ensure equality in benefits received.
9. Provide opportunities for people to contract to work more than 35hrs on an individual basis.
10. Consider the issue of hourly overtime rates and allowances through the process.
11. Recognise that across Royal Mail Group there are different start points in different business units, functions and grades along with a range of current arrangements based on both Gross and Net working week models. Equally recognise that the operational and commercial challenges can vary greatly in these areas which have led to the adoption of different approaches to the shorter working week in the past. As such, work has commenced to consider and develop policy options in relation to the provision of equivalent benefits to other CWU grades currently not on a 39hr gross working week for future consideration by the Committee.
12. That negotiations will have to ensure that meal relief entitlements are reviewed so no benefits from the introduction of a shorter working week are lost.
This represents our formal claim and the rationale behind it. What we would now welcome is a detailed response from the business that addresses the merits of our case, the rationale behind it and our proposed framework for taking it forward.
Thank you for your time and I look forward to your reply.
Terry Pullinger Deputy General Secretary (Postal)