Unite Letter To Members
30th October 2017
Unite Members Issues With Pay, Pensions et al
When I wrote to you on the 19th of September I set out a summary on a range of areas of concern that we had raised with the company. Unite national representatives then met with the chief operating officer and the group HR director on the 28th September when a full and frank exchange of views took place. Subsequently the business sent a formal letter of response, (6th October) giving it’s considered views on the points we had raised. Many of the points in response were disappointing and negative. Indeed there was no real signal of any intention to take positive steps to resolve these issues.
Royal Mail did comment to more strategic discussions with Unite but also indicated that it was keen to reduce the cost of redundancy, presumably by reducing the terms on offer to all including those currently contained in the MTFS agreement. Members will recall that since Royal Mail gave notice of removing these terms from non operational managers on the 19th September 2005, redundancy compensation, at the maximum, has gone from equivalent to 2 years pay to one year plus 13 weeks for non ops managers. Similarly there was no real commitment given to take managers off delivery. In fact they seem to expect managers to do this themselves through self led training interventions.
This is compounded by the fact that this is of course at the time of EMC is being rolled out which is becoming clear that members have difficulty in preparing for because of the other operational challenges and pressures they face. Similarly Royal mail failed to respond positively on the cover manager remuneration issue that has been rumbling on for over 12 months now.
Members will be aware that Unite has rejected the pensions position put by the company and is currently exploring the proposal put forward by the CWU. We will be circulating a flyer specifically on the pensions position soon which will remind members that pension provision would be reduced by 33% for a member aged 40 and for a member aged 50 this would be a reduction of 25%.
In respect of pay the company has indicated it is willing to continue talks but questioned whether this will happen before discussions taking place elsewhere are concluded. It has not given any positive indication that it will improve its current closed offfer, which has been rejected by the negotiators. At a time when inflation is 3.9% the employer expects Unite to be positive about an offer that is more than 2% than the inflation rate. We have made it clear that a decent increase is necessary for a number of reasons including that in reality pay over the last few years have either risen less than inflation or been lower than the going rate in the company. Fro example in 2015 we agreed 1.6% when RPI was 0.8% but our colleagues in the CWU achieved 2.8% as the company did not exercise the re-opening clause. In 2016 inflation was at 2% and we received, as the second part of the 2-year deal, 1.3% but the company refused to reopen discussion even though the rate was outside of the tolerance we had agreed.
Notwithstanding the above points we have also seen the recent developments where Royal Mail is adopting a heavy handed approach to Unite members in requiring them to provide information to allow for what they say is planning for Christmas but it is clear in reality this is to prepare for any industrial action. Royal Mail expects its managers to do the work of those taking part in the legal and official action. Unite alternatively adopts the view that it is not reasonable and will be advising members to work normally. However Royal Mail has made it clear that it will expect our members to do the work of others. This is not acceptable to us and we are taking legal advice. It is possible that we will have no alternative than to undertake an industrial action ballot on a range of issues particularly if the company continues to adopt the aggressive approach of putting Unite members in an invidious position by requiring them to complete a skills register and to do the work of those on strike should that go ahead. The facts cannot be ignored the way in which the company has presented this has been of a bullying nature. To adopt an approach that relentlessly pushes people via email to provide their own information is just not acceptable.
Many of the individual items mentioned above; pay, pensions, redundancy terms, are each of such significance and importance that we must defend these. However when taking all of these points together on a cumulative basis it is clear that we have a need and an obligation to take the most appropriate action will allow for positive outcomes. The issues exacerbated by the unacceptable and inappropriate behaviors in the workplace demonstrated by the employer are those that are most concern to Unite members and we need to respond strongly and clearly to protect the position of members. We may need to call upon your support and given the severity of the situation I am sure you will give it.
As a company Royal Mail has been reasonably successful. Over the last 3 years it has made operating profits of £411 million in 2017. £417 million in 2016 and £470 million in 2015. Since privatisation we have seen something like £600 million plus go out of the company to shareholders. At the same time we have experienced the constant attack jobs and members being put under all sorts of pressure. Clearly I argue that this is a direct result of the privatisation of Royal Mail and it’s priority now being “shareholder value” at the expense of employee’s well being. This situation is also compounded by the lack of any clear strategy to grow the company and thereby the reliance on cost cutting to balance the books. This is the main game in town and one, which is negative at the expense of employees. We must not allow our concerns and opposition to this to go unnoticed by the company. If ever there was a time for action it is now. Accordingly and given the desperate situation that members are facing Unite senior representatives have been called together later this week in order to consider the situation on this range of important issues and to decide on the union’s response. Following this meeting a further update will be provided.