Socialist Worker

Post bosses at Royal Mail site delayed deep clean after Covid-19 case due to money row

by Nick Clark
Issue No. 2727

Swansea Parcelforce workers took action earlier this year over coronavirus fears

Swansea Parcelforce workers took action earlier this year over coronavirus fears (Pic: CWU Southwest Wales Ama)


Postal workers’ demands for safety were ignored at a major Royal Mail workplace where more than 20 people have caught coronavirus.

At least 22 people at the Cardiff delivery office and mail centre have tested positive for Covid-19 over the past fortnight. Several more had to self-isolate as a precaution.

Meanwhile, an outbreak at a car dealership on the same road meant another 13 workers there also had to self-isolate.

Managers delayed deep cleaning the Royal Mail site after the first positive case amid rows over who would pay for it, according to CWU union officials. They only took action after politicians and health authorities intervened.

CWU South East Wales Amal branch secretary Amarjite Singh told Socialist Worker, “About two weeks ago we had our first Covid incident in the mail centre.

“We raised our concerns. Although the individual self-isolated, we asked management to put in extra cleaning, especially around touch points—the toilet, doors, the canteen.

“It was only after we got Public Health Wales and our Welsh Assembly Members involved that Royal Mail started the cleaning we’d asked for.”

Amarjite said “obstructive” Royal Mail managers at first argued over which part of the company should pay for the deep clean.

Bosses said they weren’t responsible, and that Royal Mail Property and Facilities Management—a separate body with its own budget—should pay instead. They were also slow to give complete and appropriate safety advice—potentially putting more workers at risk.

“It seemed no one wanted to pay for the extra cleaning,” said Amarjite. “Forget who’s paying for it—they should protect the workforce.

Isolation

“We’ve had to drag senior management onto site because no one was to be seen. Someone came back after two weeks’ isolation, but managers didn’t reassure the workforce it was safe.

“Royal Mail also put out documents saying people should follow advice from Public Health England, not Public Health Wales. But there are variations between England and Wales.”

As coronavirus cases increase across Britain, workplaces are often at the centre of outbreaks and are where many people are most at risk.

Two workers at a large Renault car garage on Penarth Road in Cardiff—the same road as the mail centre—have also tested positive for Covid-19. Thirteen people out of a workforce of 60 are now self-isolating.

Bosses in every business put profit ahead of workers’ lives.

The Cardiff mail centre outbreak comes as Royal Mail reintroduces shared delivery vans at workplaces across Britain.

Top bosses want workers to volunteer to share vans—breaching social distancing measures. Yet Royal Mail also says sick pay won’t be paid to anyone who falls ill after breaching public health guidance.

The CWU is advising its members not to volunteer to share vans, and is demanding full sick pay for anyone who does. But even if just two workers in one workplace share a van, it can put the whole office at threat.

“Royal Mail has been able to carry on during the coronavirus pandemic,” said Amarjite. “But they won’t look after the people earning money for them.”


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