Socialist Worker

'This is a slur on our members'

The Channel 4 Dispatches programme last week tore into postal workers and suggested they were lazy and, in some instances, criminals. It focused on Nigerian workers. The programme received huge publicity and was seized upon by every enemy of a publicly

Issue No. 1900

I'M OUTRAGED that this programme turned out to be a slur on our members. The vast majority of postal workers are decent, honest, law-abiding people. The trailer and leaflet for the programme were particularly bad, with an actor playing a postal worker stealing money from envelopes. The job is not a picnic. It is frequently stressful and physically demanding. Of course where there is criminal activity we want it rooted out.

But there is a very real danger that some people could look at this programme and draw the wrong conclusions. It could end up as a smear on ethnic minority workers. We welcome people from all backgrounds, all races, all religions and none into the Post Office. They should all get the same treatment and the same rights and deserve the right training and the right equipment.

The programme didn't ask why there are so many agency workers in the industry. This is a matter of deliberate policy from management, who hope to evade some of their responsibilities for training and supporting workers and to cut costs. This also links to the question of low pay and poor conditions-which again the programme did not even begin to address.

The current problems being encountered in some delivery offices follow the introduction of the Single Daily Delivery (SDD) system. This is mainly due to unrealistic savings targets and Royal Mail's obsession with profit over its commitment to deliver the mail to its customers.

SDD is supposed to be negotiable in the light of experience. If management recognised that then there would be fewer problems on delivery. We have always worked for a better postal industry which opens up new services.

For example, we have argued that blind people and people with disabilities should be on a register to get earlier deliveries. We want the service to improve and it is cost-cutting that stands in the way, not postal workers. The comment around the programme has raised wider questions about the future of the postal service.

The CWU believes there are urgent questions that need addressing. We have a government which fails to accept accountability for an industry it owns.

We have the government-appointed regulator, Postcomm, which sees its primary role as driving and encouraging competition by allowing private firms into the industry without any regard for our obligation to provide a quality, universal service.

We have Post Watch, the consumer watchdog, which constantly attacks the business in a negative way without taking into account the funding and resources we have at our disposal. We have government-appointed high-profile business leaders who seem to operate purely on short-termism. Moreover, there is increasing evidence that these same managers pursue their own agendas rather than offer a clear vision for a successful future.

None of the major players are serving the industry in any dynamic way-and some appear hostile to the concept of an efficient public service. The effect is reminiscent of the Tory days when there was a deliberate attempt to run down the industry in preparation for privatisation. We cannot continue to have an industry directed by four competing factions, with a fifth-the CWU representing the workforce-with the most to lose.

We were meeting trade and industry minister Patricia Hewitt this week and will forcefully be making these points in a continuing campaign.


PAUL GARRAWAY, Oxford postal worker

THE PROGRAMME could have been an objective analysis of the reality of "modernisation" in Royal Mail. Instead the journalist seemed more interested in sensationalism. It showed postal workers as irrational, lazy and dishonest, not a picture I can identify with.

It showed the reporter struggling to complete a delivery round but simply did not acknowledge how hard we work. Casualisation of the industry inevitably impacts on quality of service. Criminals will always attempt to infiltrate the Post Office, but I would ask how widespread this is-and are they all Nigerian? Don't ask Dispatches, you'll only get the most superficial answer.

NORMAN CANDY, London Divisional Representative

THE CHICKENS are coming home to roost. The current state of the postal service is the logical outcome of over three years of mismanagement by Royal Mail bosses like Leighton, Crozier and Toime. Patricia Hewitt's disastrous appointment of this trio is leading the Royal Mail towards meltdown.

It will make the botched privatisation of British Rail look like a roaring success story. And it's not only in London. All over Britain the service is failing and the customers are suffering.

It is worse in London because the abysmally low wages are insufficient to attract and retain recruits of the required standard. Allan Leighton is directly responsible for the situation. However, Patricia Hewitt's silence on the issue of service standards is deplorable.

A proud, reliable and honest workforce is being scapegoated for the failures of management and government. Hewitt should resign and must be replaced by someone who understands the importance of the mail service.

TUNDE, Birmingham postal worker

THE MORNING after the programme I was doing my round when, on three separate occasions, people had a go at me saying things like, "They've got your number now, you thief," and, "Bloody Africans, stealing our mail." This is in complete contrast to what normally happens. Most of the time everyone sees their postman as a friend and people are nice to me. My family is from Nigeria and I'm a postal worker. That certainly doesn't make me a thief. It means I do a really hard job for £280 a week. If anyone's ripping off the public it's the government and the management, who only think about driving down the costs and making us work harder.

ANDY BLAKE, Newcastle postal worker

I KNOW Royal Mail said the programme was a distortion of what really happens but I wonder who benefits from it. If you were a manager who wanted to keep on with a ruthless, union-busting, job-shedding, cost-cutting agenda then you would have loved it. I'm suspicious and you don't lose much money by being suspicious about Royal Mail bosses. Some of the pictures looked very well shot. Did some manager let the cameras in?


Paul Turnbull

THE VERDICT of the appeal by sacked Cambridge postal worker Paul Turnbull was expected this week. Paul, who has the full backing of the national CWU union at every level, has been cleared by a court of the alleged offences which led up to his sacking. It will be a disgrace if he is not completely cleared and reinstated to his job with full compensation.


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News
Sat 8 May 2004, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1900
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