Support growing for Pathway to Change agreementPostal, Royal Mail Group (EMP) January 12 2021
Tuesday 12th January 2021
Dave Ward and Terry Pullinger kicked off Pathway to Change Week yesterday evening with a Facebook Live broadcast to thousands of postal workers – hosted by Chris Webb.
But it was CWU members’ questions that set the agenda, with a range of enquiries from all over the country, as hard-working members took the opportunity to quiz the leadership on the ground-breaking new national agreement negotiated with Royal Mail Group.
“We wanted to make sure members’ voices were heard – so the whole hour consisted of Dave, our general secretary, and Terry, deputy general secretary postal, responding to issues raised by frontline postmen and women,” explains Chris, CWU head of communications, “and it was important to know what the top concerns were.”
Topics covered included the potential for regular Sunday working, the new Royal Mail CEO, the ‘Swipe In/Swipe Out’ attendance system, backpay, the balloting process for the deal, and the future growth strategy.
But the session began with Dave and Terry’s comments on the over-arching topic on everybody’s minds at the moment – the horrible Covid situation our country is facing and the many tragedies of lost lives.
In Royal Mail, as elsewhere, sickness levels are up as the pandemic has taken a turn for the worse and Dave spoke of the need to “renew our focus” on making sure social distancing is followed and that the appropriate PPE is available and is used.
“There’s huge pressure on the workforce and the focus must be on keeping people as safe as they can be at work,” said Dave.
Terry added: “It’s about ensuring standards we put in at start of lockdown. Keep yourself as safe as you can possibly be” and suggested that, if there are complaints from customers about delivery delays, there may be a need for a joint public information campaign, explaining the extremely challenging situation within the industry at the moment.
In response to questions about Sunday working, an assurance was given that individuals will not suddenly be forced to work on that day – but that Sundays will increasingly become a part of the working week.
“We have to move into a ‘24/7’ operation,” our general secretary explained, saying: “That’s the reality of where customers are.
“Nobody will be forced to work Sunday, but we can’t not move to a 24/7 operation.”
Terry also placed the Sunday working discussion within the context of future strategy, reminding the audience – which grew to its highest level during this part of the session – of the business strategy being pursued by the previous regime at the head of the company a year ago.
“Back then, they wanted to shrink us and reduce the operation – but it was us who wanted an ambitious vision for this business and 24/7 is part of that.
“We live in a 24/7 world and we’ve got to see if there’s a growth opportunity on a Sunday. We want to create jobs and we can have all sorts of duty patterns,” he pointed out.
Chris then turned to the questions about Monday morning’s announcement that Simon Thompson has been appointed as Royal Mail’s new chief executive officer (CEO).
Simon Thompson, who was already a non-executive member of the Board, has previously held senior roles with companies as varied as Apple, HSBC and Morrisons and his appointment has been broadly welcomed by the union.
Our general secretary described it as “a positive change” representing “a new mindset that growth is the way to go” and according to our DGSP, “the new CEO’s CV is all about digital, retail and growth – we’re optimistic.”
Debate then moved onto future strategy and Dave took the opportunity to set out some of his thoughts on how Pathway to Change provides a chance to “expand the role of postal workers.”
Speaking with enthusiasm, he made clear that, although getting in shape to be able to capture the biggest possible share of the lucrative and growing parcels market is a top business priority, the commitment not to abandon letters and to develop other services is “an exciting challenge going forward.”
Royal Mail’s army of Postmen and postwomen have “trust on the doorstep” to an extent that none of our competitor companies can even come close to matching and this can only help us in our drive forward – whether meeting public needs by assisting further with nationwide campaigns during and after the current crisis, or creating bespoke delivery products for local businesses helping our economy rebuild in the period ahead.
“We’ve got to grasp that opportunity to really grow the business,” he urged.
Terry made the point that it was refreshing that, with this new agreement, “we’re not negotiating job losses, we’re negotiating to grow jobs.
“At the start of this, the company were talking about 14,000 job losses but that’s totally turned round,” he continued.
“We’re trying to turn the industry into something for the future. We’ve fought so hard for the opportunity to shape this business and our members will see that going forward.”
Local autonomy will also help in expanding the business, something that our union’s unique, workplace-based culture is perfectly suited for – both in terms of pushing forward growth and in ensuring that the deployment of new technology takes place fairly and in accordance with agreed protocols.
A special thanks was sent out to all of our workplace reps during the broadcast and Chris urged the audience to post messages of support for their own unit rep.
The key issues of pay, job security and the shorter working week are the headline aspects of the agreement and Terry spelled these out once again, in terms of how impressive these achievements are within the context of the current national situation.
“We fight hard for what we get and we’ve had so many comments of people saying what a good agreement it is,” he said.
“Look at what’s around you, there could be another million unemployed. Look what’s going on in British Gas, they’re telling people they will be sacked and re-employed on lower pay etc. And that’s why they’re on strike at the moment.
“But we’ve got a pay rise and another hour off the working week,” Terry reminded members, adding that, over the period of the past few years, overall pay has increased by 16 per cent.
This current pay deal is backdated to April 2020, and it all flows through to allowances, to SA etc – and the DGSP confirmed that, as soon as the Yes vote is returned, the company will “push the button” on the pay.
Dave sits on the TUC general council and regularly speaks with leaders of our fellow trade unions in other sectors of the UK economy and he made the point that the Pathway to Change agreement compares very well with other agreements being struck.
“There’s no better agreement around on pay and the shorter working week and job security,” he insisted and, in a closing message to members, he urged: “Hopefully, you’ll return the right result and back this deal.”
In his closing comments, Terry said: “I’m proud of this agreement and I’ll defend it proudly,” and made it clear that it had been CWU members themselves who had won the deal.
“Our members have stuck with us for the past two years and got this agreement and haven’t lost a penny in industrial action.
“It’s our members’ deal – back this agreement and now let’s grasp this opportunity.”
Speaking this morning, Chris Webb told CWU.org that “last night was a great way to kick-off this busy week of Pathway to Change events and it was brilliant to see the high level of involvement from members all around the UK.
“As a former unit rep myself, it was great how the audience of postal workers sent in so many messages of support and respect for their own reps.
“They’re the real backbone of this great union and it’s so important to give them our full backing.
“This evening, we’re really looking forward to welcoming Davie Robertson and his conversation with our members in Processing, Distribution, Logistics and Parcelforce.
“Please have a read of Davie’s articles on CWU.org and please join us this evening from 7pm.”