The next few months will be crucial for postal workers, as Royal Mail starts a new round of automation.
Flat sorting machines (to sort A4 letters) are being introduced into mail centres, and over 500 walk sequencing machines (to sort and prepare small letters into street and number order) will be introduced across the country by 2010.
This automation will drastically reduce the amount of labour-intensive manual sorting of mail, and preparation of delivery walks, that is currently done in mail centres and delivery offices.
The impact of this will be tens of thousands of delivery jobs being made part-time.
Except, that is, in a lucky few of the larger delivery offices which will have a handful of full-time walk sequencing machine operator jobs.
The contractual hours of current part-time workers will also be cut. But all this is not inevitable, provided the CWU leadership gets its act together and force Royal Mail to agree to maintain the number of full-time jobs.
One policy passed at this year’s CWU Conference was to campaign for a 35-hour shorter working week, with no loss of pay. But as yet, we have seen little evidence of a serious campaign being launched.
The ‘roll-out’ of the walk sequencing machines is due to start in Leeds and Bradford this October, then in the rest of the country from next January.
Activists must demand that the CWU leadership gets a grip on this issue as a matter of urgency. The union needs to start a campaign among the membership to ensure they are prepared to fight once again for full-time jobs in Royal Mail.