National Negotiations Update December 2017:
Firstly, we wish to thank you for your continued support and apologise for the lack of information over the last few weeks. The CWU had to respect the request from the mediators not to communicate on the national talks until after the mediation report has been produced.
We can now give you a full update on the National Negotiations. There has been progress on many of the issues. However due to the complexities of these issues there is still no agreement.
Talks have been ongoing for the last two weeks without the mediator. The CWU national negotiators are optimistic that we will have a good agreement at the end of the talks.
We should all be aware that progress has only been made because of the massive 89.1% yes vote in favour of strike action. If Royal Mail at any stage of the ongoing talks decide to stop listening to our concerns the union will have no choice but to invoke the industrial action mandate and announce strike action.
There has been real progress on all issues which made up the 4 Pillars Campaign.
The mediator has now produced a report. It is important to recognise that the report is not an agreement and that talks have continued without the mediator for the last two weeks. Further talks will take place into next week without the mediator. This dispute will only be settled by negotiations between Royal Mail and the CWU.
PENSIONS. There have been significant developments on Pensions. During all the previous negotiations Royal Mail had refused point blank to agree to having just one pension scheme for all.
However, during the negotiations which the Mediator was facilitating, Royal Mail agreed to the principle of one pension scheme for all.
Royal Mail and the CWU are still working on the details of the scheme but the following has been agreed.
A) That there will be one pension scheme for all.
That All Basic Pay and pensionable allowances will count towards pensionable pay.
C) This will significantly benefit those individuals who joined after April1987 and are in the old POPS scheme as their first £4000 of their basic wage is not pensionable. Under this scheme, it will be. This will benefit 88,000 members of the 93,000 in the current DB scheme who joined after 1st April 1987.
D) All DC scheme members will be in the new scheme and will for the first time have their pensionable allowances count towards their pension.
The above scheme will be a collective defined ambition Pension scheme which will guarantee a wage in retirement and there will be an element of shared risk.
This new scheme needs changes to the Pension Regulations and Royal Mail and the CWU will lobby the Government to have these changes introduced. The above represents significant progress. However, a lot more of the detail needs to be clarified before there is an agreed and legally binding commitment on pensions.
Both the union and Royal Mail recognises that whilst we are lobbying the Government for the changes to be made to allow for the Pension regulator to approve of such a pension scheme, we will need transitional arrangements prior to the 31st March 2018 when the Defined Benefit scheme closes.
The transitional arrangements could be that we simply agree an extension to the DB scheme closure date. However Royal Mail has offered the following as an interim measure;
. All current DB members get transferred into a Defined Benefit cash balance scheme;
. That any member who is in the DC scheme who has been in Royal Mail for 5 or more years would be also moved into the Defined Benefit Cash balance scheme;
. That all remaining members in the Defined Benefit scheme who had done more than 12 months would be auto enrolled onto the highest level which attracts Royal Mail’s contribution of 10%.
PAY. The CWU has rejected another Royal Mail pay offer which increased the lump sum from £350 to £550 which would have been consolidated from April by 2% and another 2% for next year and an hour off the working week. The external mediator has recommended 2.6% backdated to April 2017 flowing through to allowances. Pay remains unresolved and subject to further negotiations.
SHORTER WORKING WEEK. Royal Mail has offered an hour off the working week from next year. The CWU want agreement on a timetable which commits to the introduction of a 35-hour gross working week without loss of pay and with paid meal reliefs continuing and is pushing for a shorter working week based on automation and the decline of letter traffic. Also, a shorter working week will reduce absorption levels.
Prior to 2009 we had no sequencing and no flat automation. Now more of this workload completely bypasses the IPS. Royal Mail wants later acceptance times and more work sequenced on the first wave. This means that the first wave will not be sorted into the frame, the work will be un-sequenced.
If, and it is a big IF, the parcel machines work to full capacity, a manifest for each walk can be produced which then further reduces indoor work. Add to this Automated Hours Data Capture (AHDC), which identifies where you are in any part of the building and PDA actuals which record your last letter and location and time.
A reduction in the working week is therefore vital on the basis of the loss of indoor workload. The expectation from the employer will be to do longer and longer deliveries to compensate. Hence the importance of a substantial reduction in the working week. Those who argue that you can’t complete now within 39 hours should be aware that a shorter working week means they have to employ part timers on more hours or another full timer.
Royal Mail estimates that a 1 hour reduction in the working week based on no absorption equates to a cost of 100 million pounds. Remember the Shorter working week is without loss of pay and without losing paid meal reliefs. Due to the hourly rate going up part timers would benefit from a shorter working week with an instant pay rise. Our reasons for a shorter working week are sound.
LEGAL GUARANTEES. This is one area where progress has not been made and has not been helped by the Mediators report. The mediators’ recommendation is that the review should not take place until 2019. The CWU is insisting that Royal Mail agrees to an extension of the legal guarantees as part of any final deal. This would stop any attempts to introduce outsourcing, franchising, a two-tier workforce or a break-up of the company.
PIPELINE ISSUES. Progress has been made on all the issues which Royal Mail were originally proposing. This includes: Dropping the 1700 hour last letter and their 9-5 Delivery strategy. Royal Mail has moved its position from 17:00 to a range of finishing times from 14:30 and 15:30. (It is currently from 14:00 until 15:00). This remains unagreed by the CWU. The CWU are looking at agreeing trials on ADHC which can not be used for identifying where you are within your workplace and can not be used for individual performance standards or conduct issues.
The union has rejected walk ownership and the concept of outdoor delivery merging and are currently exploring trialling different indoor methods for prep. However, there will be change due to the fact that the growth in parcels is based on next day delivery. Additionally, new technology and automation is going to change the way we sort and the way we currently work. Against this background, the CWU is attempting to establish trials based on what will be acceptable in the future from automation and technological advances.
OTHER RELATED ISSUES. The following issues are still a fundamental part of the ongoing negotiations: Reviews of Part Timers contracted hours; Holiday pay for part time members; Resourcing in Offices and managers putting budget before quality of service.
CONCLUSION. We believe there has been real progress on most of the issues and accept that it is right for our national negotiators to continue to attempt to reach a final agreement. If at any stage the negotiations hit a brick wall then we should all be in no doubt that we will invoke our right to take strike action.
At this moment in time we are hopeful of a good agreement. The progress so far would not have been achieved without your support and your yes vote. The power of our collective strength through the union is there for us all to see. Keep the faith and keep supporting your union.