PATHWAY TO CHANGE – TRIAL AND DEPLOYMENT OF NEW METHODS, TECHNOLOGY AND AUTOMATION
Branches will be aware that Section 2.8 of the Pathway to Change CWU/RMG Relationship – Working Together committed both parties to update the current national trial Agreement(s). The specific aim of this exercise was for the existing National Generic Trial and National Deployment Frameworks that formed Annex A and B respectively of the Business Transformation 2010 Agreement (copies attached) to reflect the principles detailed in the Pathway to Change Agreement.
Branches will also be aware that since their inception, the two interrelated agreements have both stood the test of time, having been extensively applied to trials of various working methods, new equipment and technology across all functions and workplaces that make up the operational network.
Following the endorsement by the Postal Executive of the Joint Statement reached in July 2020, the business tabled a line of sight document in the subsequent negotiations. In this document Royal Mail detailed their desired position to help deliver the company’s change agenda and while not representing detailed proposals, line of sight gave a clear indication on how the business viewed their relationship with the CWU and the role of the Union in the workplace. One of the areas covered in line of sight was headed Trials and Technology Process and it was evident that the company was intent on introducing a new process to replace the existing agreements for all trials, technology and automation. Additionally:
- Royal Mail would assess the need for a trial to be conducted and advise the CWU of the aims and objectives in the format of Standard Operating Procedures.
- Discuss at national level the aims and objective of carrying out the trial.
- When a trial is required, Royal Mail will advise the CWU of the location and various assessments i.e. earnings, operational impact, attendances, Health and Safety etc.
- Where Royal Mail concludes trials have been successful and a decision is taken to deploy the changes and equipment, this will be carried out in line with the Deployment Framework and implemented as soon as possible.
- Royal Mail acknowledged that with the above approach any changes initiated from the trial activity to employees’ terms and conditions will require negotiations with the CWU.
- Where appropriate, changes from the trials may still need to be progressed through the DRP process.
Clearly the ambition and desire of the business was not one of mutual interest and would effectively have meant the Union had no proactive or meaningful role in trial activity going forward. In effect the only role the Union would play was when a terms and conditions issue came to the fore or when the company thought it appropriate to apply the Dispute Resolution Process (DRP).
During the following negotiations this approach was rejected and Branches will no doubt acknowledge that the final wording in Section 2.8 of the Pathway to Change protected and enhanced the role of the Union for both trial and deployment activity whilst allowing for further discussions to update the agreements.
These negotiations have been ongoing and I am pleased to report that at a meeting on 29th April 2021 the Postal Executive unanimously endorsed the attached revised new Generic Trial and Deployment Framework Agreements. These agreements are a long way from what management originally intended and have built upon and strengthened the original trial agreements.
Branches will note that the Union is now involved prior to a business case even being put to the Board i.e. before investment has been committed. Equally under Trial, Branches will note that the agreement now states ‘when the trial is agreed’ as opposed to the previous agreement that said ‘when a trial is required’. In respect of deployment, we have also added additional words to cover off the possible scenario of where a trial is based on doing one thing but the business go beyond the trial objectives when they deploy, this is now covered by ‘Any subsequent disagreements on the method or usage of technology proposed will be resolved through the Dispute Resolution Procedures’.
In respect of the Deployment Document, there is little change albeit that the changes are important. For example, under Deployment Program the agreement now states ‘agreed guidelines’ and under Local Involvement now reads ‘local agreement’ prior to implementation rather than ‘local discussion’ in the previous agreement.
Branches will see that these redrafts mirror the commitments made in the Pathway to Change Agreement and this is further evidence of what can be achieved when both parties adopt a mutual interest approach to concluding agreements.
Any enquiries in relation to the content of this LTB should be addressed to the DGS(P) Department.
Deputy General Secretary (Postal)