JOINT STATEMENT – PAY AND SHORTER WORKING WEEK
Last week the National Postal Officers seized the first opportunity to call together Senior Field Officials and Postal Executive members in a carefully planned legally compliant face-to-face briefing to update them on the national negotiations, whilst also attempting to progress the Joint Statement signed with the employer at the start of July 2020.
The information exchanged at our meeting in Liverpool with our leaders in the field should by now have filtered down through our field structure via Area/Local Representatives and Branch meetings.
However since our briefing and after Royal Mail Group’s presentation on their financial results and the publicity surrounding it, we have been inundated with questions and requests for more information which can be used in the field to brief members. This LTB is therefore designed to help Branches and Representatives close any knowledge gap that may exist with members and assist colleagues in dealing with enquires.
The Joint Statement was signed by the CWU and RMG at the start of July 2020 and published in LTB 352/20.
The Joint Statement represents a logical flightpath of progress and seeks to deal with all of the significant issues and challenges faced.
The talks have been conducted in a reasonable manner with both parties trying hard to repair relationships whilst under considerable pressure to deliver and deal with the day to day operation under COVID-19 arrangements.
Timeline and Scope of Talks
This section of the Joint Statement (copy attached) defines the logical sequence of events whilst also discussing issues requiring agreement. The five sections of progress were defined as follows:
- To discuss the financial position of the company.
Clearly there has been much publicity about this and despite the continuing challenges of COVID-19 costs, the situation is improving and the CWU is convinced that Royal Mail Group with the right ambition and growth plan can build on this difficult time and still emerge as the most trusted doorstep connector in this country and the only provider that guarantees delivery to every address in the country with total equality.
- To agree (in accordance with the second bullet point under the heading ‘Rebuilding Trust’) a deployment plan for the local revision and deployment of change activity required to address the immediate operational and financial challenges facing the UK business.
This section dealt with how we address the 600 plus local disagreements hanging over from our dispute and the imminent threat at that time of managerial executive action. It acknowledged that there was a need for light touch revisions in all units to re-align operations to improve operational arrangements and adjust to the challenge of the COVID-19 impact. There has been positive progress on what this should look like and we have also made significant progress on machine moves and trials with final sign off on negotiator agreements imminent.
Trials: In respect of trials we have been discussing the issues of ‘Automated Hours Data Capture’, ‘Resource Scheduler’, Dedicated Parcel Van Delivery Duties’, ‘2 Bundle Delivery Approach on D2D products’.
Resource Scheduler has already been the subject of an agreed joint trial which management ceased because it did not work. The business now claim that they have modified it and believe it will now work. They have agreed to give the Union (and those involved with the original joint trial) a full presentation on the changes made which have now given confidence that the system can work. Once confidence is restored a further trial is warranted, the original terms of reference will hold the field and an agreed joint trial will be moved forward.
Automated Hours Data Capture (AHDC) was described by the Royal Mail Group AGM 2020 Trading Statement as:
‘dispensing with old, outdated ways of working such as handwritten sign in sheets, moving to automated clock-in, clock-out systems as used by other businesses for decades’
Statements like that give the impression that we have not embraced new technology, that we are a prehistoric organisation stuck in the past. We take exception to that. We already have a number of our sites that use such systems, our letter operation is fully automated, our parcel and delivery people are armed with new technology which enables doorstep transactions and timed deliveries. Our CWU position is clear – new technology provides the opportunity for new products and services and diversification and growth but we will not agree to its use to de–humanise the workplace, bring continuous pressure on individuals or remove the role of the Union in protecting people in the workplace. To be clear the latest draft on management’s desired usage of AHDC is far from the simplistic statement made by the RMG board in respect of clocking in and out. Verbally in the talks management had agreed with the CWU negotiators that new technology would not be used to;
Track people, stop pay, for disciplinary purposes or to remove the Union’s role in the workplace regarding manpower planning, work organisation etc.
However, management’s latest draft proposal does indeed track people around the workplace and builds up individual data on all individual employees in all workplaces, a far cry from the simple clock-in and out description that the board chose to use to ridicule our current operations.
We continue negotiations on these issues.
Dedicated Parcel Delivery Trials
We are negotiating a terms of reference for the trial which seeks to represent the need for dedicated parcel deliveries for format 3 & 4 parcels and later parcel deliveries associated with our LAT products. As you will be aware RMG were proposing in our dispute to only have such operations from 300 delivery offices but we are seeking a trial agreement that enable solutions for such parcels across all our offices and also ensures that as much as possible is delivered on our core letter & parcel deliveries as that is the most efficient and effective arrangement.
Post Box Strategy
As part of the national discussions words were agreed in relation to an ongoing review of the Post Box estate. However, while that document on “light touch” change has been sitting in abeyance out with the formal national talks, the company has presented an alternative strategy which would significantly change the current agreed approach.
Royal Mail Group have tabled proposals which significantly increase the number of pillar boxes to be collected from, by our members onto delivery. The plan outlined to the Union is for circa 15,000 boxes only to remain as post 4pm. These boxes will be largely POL outlets, business users parcel posting boxes, railway stations, main supermarkets and airports. Royal Mail Group say that the reason for this is due to accelerated posted letter decline.
Two Bundle D2D “warm call” Trial
Royal Mail Group wish to carry out a trial in 3 delivery units which will include delivering from separate sequenced & manual bundles of mail on a Monday & Saturday whilst throwing in or prepping up all D2D items into the preparation frame on a Tuesday and warm call the D2D items with all prepped combined mail from Tuesday – Friday. The objective of the trial from Royal Mail Group’s perspective is to improve efficiency whilst also enhancing quality on the D2D product. We are currently in discussions with Royal Mail Group on developing the trial and agreeing a terms of reference for this as well as including within this approach discussion on a future automation strategy for D2D whilst also growing the product.
A draft document has been concluded on a clear process for the review of the Letter Automation Estate covering CSS, IMP, iLSM and CFC machines both at National level and on a Mail Centre Catchment Area (MCCA) basis. At National level, it has been agreed a new National Automation Group will be created. This Group will have initial oversight of the plan which will be reviewed on a 3-monthly basis. This plan will determine the phased activity in each MCCA.
In reviewing local proposals, all functions affected by the potential machine removal or change are fully represented at the negotiating table through the creation of Local Joint Working Groups (LJWG). We believe that the document will be of assistance to our representatives across all functions in dealing with what is likely to be a significant program of machine removals.
- To agree a pay settlement for April 2020.
Our 2020 pay award is a standalone pay claim and separate from our 2019 dispute. The General Secretary and I negotiated this section of the logical process because without resolving the 2019 dispute and specifically the 2nd hour of the Shorter Working Week, there would have to be a simple no strings pay award which not only rewarded our members for their work over the past year but also their magnificent and continuing effort during the pandemic. We argued that the light touch revision activity moving on with trials and other operational change would not be positively embraced unless it reflected and coincided with a mutual interest approach and settling our 2020 pay claim clearly provided that opportunity, hence its positioning at number three in the Joint Statement.
RMG have, or are attempting to break the spirit, intent and logical sequence of the Joint Statement by now seeking a longer-term pay award once everything in this Joint Statement is agreed. This complicates these negotiations and I repeat breaks the logical sequence of events originally envisaged.
Royal Mail Group have now suggested a framework for a 3 year pay award which not only breaks the original construct of the Joint Statement by holding the April 2020 pay award back until all 1 to 5 items are concluded but also offers the potential for no actual pay increase for April 2020.
Royal Mail Group state that it is not a formal offer, so we assume it’s the starting point for negotiations. However, whilst we cannot give you the detail of that informal summary, we can tell you that it starts from a very low base which would be totally unacceptable to the CWU and does not reflect your amazing efforts as key workers and is at odds with the value that our nation puts on postal workers.
- To agree a resolution to our dispute, operational change and the future strategy of the RMG, including Parcelforce. This will include short, medium and long term operational changes and the use and deployment of technology.
- To develop a mutual interest’s strategy for the future, the Royal Mail and CWU will now also explore the potential to better utilise the company’s unrivalled infrastructure, including the following: –
- Developing a joint strategy to maintain the USO as part of the social fabric of the UK, including exploring the potential for new USO products to support its long-term economic sustainability.
- Exploring opportunities to minimise letter traffic decline.
- Developing opportunities for diversification by focusing on an expanded and wider role for Royal Mail employees in supporting local communities, local and regional business growth and measures to assist the recovery of the UK economy.
- Exploring how Royal Mail and its employees can play a significant role in supporting environmental change and the development of a green new deal in the UK.
The Joint Statement anticipated items 4 & 5 may require negotiations to take longer than items 1 to 3 with the follow words agreed by both parties;
‘All areas will be progressed with a view of reaching agreement by the end of July, with potential for extension in points 4 & 5 above’.
Items illustrated under 4 and 5 of this section of the Joint Statement are still being discussed and negotiations continue.
Resolution to our dispute still needs to be concluded and in particular how we honour the Four Pillars Agreement (recommitted to in the Joint Statement).
An agreed measure of Productivity is an issue included in our dispute and an outstanding issue from the Four Pillars Agreement. We have now agreed a terms of reference for a joint working group with industrial engineering expertise from both RMG and the Union to look at productivity not just from a 100 BSI perspective but what enables good productivity i.e. work environment, tools, training, different building designs, culture, location and geography etc.
Those discussions will now commence imminently.
New Operational Pipeline
To be clear we are in negotiations regarding how new parcel sort centres will work, rather than opposing them. We understand that the growth in parcels and online activity is growing faster than ever and we have to have more capacity and the automation to meet that demand.
On a positive note we have sought assurances on no compulsory redundancies, no mail centre, delivery and RDC closures consequently and have received a positive response which will be part of any overall agreement.
Whilst the defeat of the TUPE proposal was a significant achievement, recent presentations on the future Pipeline and Parcel Strategy including in Liverpool have given a distinct impression that the strategy was constructed on the basis that Parcelforce would no longer have been an integral part of the business. We have made representations that RMG need to bring renewed focus on the future of Parcelforce and have received commitments from the company that RMG remain committed to growing a successful Parcelforce business.
6 Day USO
Following on from the RMG AGM there was much speculation in the media regarding the future of the 6 day USO. The Regulator (Ofcom) is carrying out a review, the timescales of which are as follows:
- Ofcom will release a ‘User Needs Review’ based on a consultation they carried out; this is expected around November 2020.
- Ofcom will carry out a consultation on all aspects of the Regulatory Framework (i.e. not just the USO) this is anticipated to be early 2021.
- If any legislation change is required, it is anticipated that this will take place late in 2021.
- Any change would then potentially be introduced in April 2022 subject to receiving parliamentary assent.
To be clear, the CWU policy and the commitments contained in our Four Pillars Agreement is to protect and promote the 6 day USO. Equally, whilst the Regulator and the Government may recommend changes to the Regulatory Framework and the USO, it has to be cleared through parliament.
I trust that this LTB has provided colleagues with a brief update on where the National Postal Officers and RMG are currently in the talks as well as an insight into how complex these negotiations are.
We will be back in negotiations again today and further updates will follow.
It is essential that our members are briefed on the contents of this LTB and further updates will be issued in due course via our various communications channels and social media forums.
In closing, to be absolutely clear, no roll out of revision activity, trials or machine moves has been agreed at this stage.
Any enquiries in relation to the content of this LTB should be addressed to the DGS(P) Department.
Deputy General Secretary (Postal)