Royal Mail Group (Royal Mail & Parcelforce) – Lifting of Covid-19 Secure Restrictions and Re-Introduction of Standard Operating Procedures/Business As Usual (SOP/BAU)
Further to LTBs 301/21, 327/21 and 329/21 and the Joint Statement of 20th July 2021, this is to inform all Regions, postal branches and representatives of the agreed joint communication being issued today regarding the above. A copy is attached and follows that which is set out below.
Throughout the pandemic Royal Mail and the Unions have worked very closely to ensure we jointly develop and maintain high standards of Covid secure safety controls in order to keep the workforce safe while continuing to meet Government’s requirements and operate the nation’s essential postal service, playing our full part as key workers within the fabric of the country.
Recent announcements by the Prime Minister and First Ministers of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have set out and progressed the Government’s step by step roadmap, easing and removing lockdown restrictions in order to provide a route back to a more normal way of life with the vaccination programme and Covid testing at the heart of the plan. Each step has been assessed by Government medical and scientific experts before restrictions have been eased, with a review and decision at each stage, based on the Covid-19 infection case data.
Royal Mail, the CWU and Unite have maintained at every stage a cautious approach. As the country has been progressing along the Government’s roadmap out of lockdown, we have already seen tasks that were completely suspended, successfully re-introduced. Those suspended range of tasks included shared vans, first aid and driver training. As the country moves forward the UK Government and devolved administrations have continued to focus on restrictions being lifted.
In July and August 2021, the Government and devolved administrations (England, Scotland and Wales) removed social distancing regulations but in Royal Mail Group we jointly agreed to maintain those controls for a further period. Northern Ireland have also now followed the rest of the UK in easing Covid restrictions. Despite the lifting of controls by UK Government, social distancing controls were maintained in Royal Mail Group throughout July, August and September 2021 as a precaution.
Covid-19 confirmed cases amongst the Royal Mail Group workforce in January 2021 was over 2000. That number has since dropped by 65% to 700 open absences last week. Whilst carefully monitoring this number and tracking the UK Governments medical and scientific guidance and regulations, collectively Royal Mail and Parcelforce with the CWU and Unite/CMA, believe that it is now safe to start to remove the remaining social distancing Covid controls, with the built in safeguard of being ready to react and re-introduce Covid-secure controls should the need arise if the infection situation should deteriorate.
Having monitored the significant fall in workforce absences, it has now been agreed that Royal Mail Group management in consultation with local Union Representatives will now prepare to cautiously remove the remaining controls across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland from Monday 11th October 2021.
Managers and CWU/Unite Representatives should now commence preparations through local consultation and joint communications with the workforce on the plans for the gradual return to normal. Royal Mail/Parcelforce will provide further updates and guidance to assist these conversations and where appropriate, risk assessments for changing operational tasks will be updated to reflect the changes.
Underpinning the change however, Royal Mail Group and CWU and Unite are agreed that local infection rates will be monitored alongside any Government guidance and using an agreed established mechanism. The agreed aim is to monitor and keep infection rates under control in the workplace as best we can through maintaining high cleaning standards and good ventilation and space standards plus wearing masks where required but if infection rates should rise to a level of concern, or if outbreaks occur, restrictions can and will be re-imposed in order to help stop the spread and transmissions as far as is practicable.
As a reminder the wearing of face coverings in England remains as strongly recommended although the Prime Minister has stated that it could become ‘mandatory’ again, depending on infection rate developments but in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland it remains mandatory when in Royal Mail premises at present. This will be reflected within the risk assessments.
Covid LFT Testing & Vaccinations
We continue to strongly recommend that the workforce, our members participate in the agreed workforce LFT testing initiative, which has so far successfully detected positive cases of members with no symptoms in 45 Units and in effect has avoided transmissions and outbreaks. We additionally strongly recommend members consider Covid and Flu vaccinations when offered. The 2021 ‘Free Flu Vaccination Scheme’ in Royal Mail Group has now been launched with on-site clinics at 110 of the largest Royal Mail and Parcelforce sites being organised, plus vaccinations available from 4000 local providers across the UK, doubling availability from last year – We ask that all CWU Reps promote these schemes to protect our members.
Private Cars on Delivery
It has been agreed that All Private Cars on Delivery use must be withdrawn from Monday 11thOctober 2021.
Process for Monitoring Covid-19 Infection Rates at Local Level Based on Confirmed Cases
The agreement on lifting of Covid-secure restrictions also required Royal Mail to establish a mechanism that will allow local infection rates to be monitored by Unit managers and CWU/Unite reps. This has been finalised by Royal Mail Group and shared with both CWU and Unite National Officers, with instructions on how this must be applied through ongoing joint monitoring and reviews by Managers and local Union Reps. A copy of the process is attached.
National Health, Safety & Environment Officer
Assistant Secretary (Acting)
Processing, Logistics, Parcelforce, International, Quadrant Department