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The New Agreement

The new agreement between the Royal Mail and the CWU is out as I’m sure you’ve heard. I’m looking at a copy now. It’s called – in a phrase which is both ominous and bland at the same time – “Business Transformation 2010 and Beyond.”

It’s a total dog’s dinner of a document, almost impossible to make sense of, full of obfuscation and vagary, with strings of letters representing various previous agreements, and a general attempt to hide its message behind obscure language. For instance, the phrase “MTSF Agreement” is used a number of times. When, eventually, you discover that this is the “Managing The Surplus Framework Agreement” you’re still not any the wiser. It takes a degree of digging to figure out that “The Surplus” means surplus jobs, so that “Managing The Surplus Framework Agreement” is referring to job losses.

Or, try this: “RM and CWU agree that the length of delivery span can be an enabler in bringing about mutual benefits. From now on, within the process of duty revision negotiations, spans must be looked at in the context of an enabler rather than a fixed amount of time to be aimed at.”

What does that mean? Simply translated “an enabler” means the opportunity to impose longer delivery spans. They can’t come out and say it directly because they know we are already overworked and will protest, so it’s hidden away in this obscure form.

But, to summarise, the agreement makes a number of significant changes to our working conditions and working practices. One of the most problematic is door-to-door (that is “junk mail”). Currently we take out 3 items per household per week and are paid separately per item. On average we would take home about £30 for this. The new agreement lifts the cap on the number and transfers it into our workload. We will no longer be paid separately. Instead we will be given a weekly supplement of £20.60, pro rata for part-timers. That figure also includes compensation for the loss of the early shift allowance.

In other words what this amounts to is a significant cut in pay for a significant increase in work: more work for less money. It will be even worse for part-timers as the pro-rata element means they will be taking out the same amount of door-to-door for half the money of their full-time colleagues.

This must be the first time in history that a workforce has gone out on strike in order to achieve a pay-cut.

Another problematic area will be longer Saturdays. Traditionally Saturdays have always been a short day to allow posties the benefit of a Saturday afternoon with their families. From now on Saturdays will be like any other day: maybe even worse, as there’s talk of Saturday-only door-to-door deliveries too. With the combination of later start times which will be rolled out for the entire week, this will mean some posties still being out on their rounds at 4.00pm on a Saturday afternoon. Too late to catch their boys out on the playing field or any other leisure activity.

Vague platitudes about “family-friendly” policies and half-hearted nods towards issues of stress and fatigue are no compensation for the very real damage this will cause to postal worker’s home lives and conditions at work.

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