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Park and Loop

New delivery methods threaten the integrity of the mail

Restructuring

Royal Mail will be spending £20m on speeding up Christmas mail before the next cold snap arrives. Photograph: Hartshead Services

It hardly needs saying, but Christmas is the busiest time of the year for postal workers. There’s a veritable assault of mail bearing down on us: more so this year than any year, as so many more people are buying on-line these days.

In previous years we took it in our stride. It was hard work, but we enjoyed it. We got on with the job and we got it done, to the best of our ability.

This year, however, things are different. This is due to the introduction of new working methods in a large number of delivery offices around the country. Quite why the Royal Mail decided to undertake a wholesale restructuring of our job just before the Christmas rush is anybody’s guess. It’s only one of a series of increasingly insane decisions we’ve been subjected to this year.

The process is called “revision”. First of all they got rid of our bikes and replaced them with vans: two posties to a van doing two extended rounds between them.

This is called “park & loop”. We park up the van, fill up our trolleys, head off in two different directions, spend 40 minutes or so completing the loop, then come back to the van to drive off to the next parking spot.

Now this would be fair enough if it actually worked, but it doesn’t. Someone somewhere has made a serious error in their calculations. The company has spent millions of pounds buying a brand new fleet of vans, but they are actually too small for the job. We have to carry our trolleys in the back, plus up to twenty-four ten kilo pouches, and then all the packets, both large and small.

And therein lies the problem. There’s not enough room for the packets, and, having dispensed with the dedicated packets delivery rounds which were part of the old method, there are serious backlogs building up in the offices as we struggle to get them out. The backlogs were already there before the Christmas rush started. I suspect that many people around the country won’t be getting their presents this year.

Priorities

Calculations

The next problem lies in the figures they’ve used to calculate the rounds. They took a sample week in June, a notoriously light month, and have extrapolated from that. On that basis they’ve estimated that we have around 26,000 items of mail passing through our office in any one day, when we all know it is more like 42,000.

What this means is that the sorting process takes a lot longer than their calculations allow for. We are allowed one hour to sort the mail into the individual rounds (known as “Internal Preparatory Sorting”) and then another hour to “prep” our frames: that is to slot the letters into the frame, into the sequence they will be taken out in. I never have time to complete this task, which means that most days there are at least six boxes of mail left unsorted under my frame, which are then “prepped” by managers or office staff while I am out on my round. So every day I come in to an already half-full frame of mail left over from the day before.

In this time we are also supposed to have prepped the door-to-door leaflets – usually referred to as “junk mail” by you, the customer – which we take out at the rate of 1/6th a day, and which can amount to anything up to six items per household. We are given six minutes to do this in when it actually takes more like 15 minutes. We are not allowed to leave the junk mail behind, which means that these days junk mail is given precedence over the normal mail, which quite often does get left behind.

That’s the measure of the Royal Mail’s priorities these days.

When the planners first came to the office to discuss the revision they made it quite clear that their aim was to reduce the workforce and therefore the number of man-hours in the office. When the revision was implemented it amounted to eight full time jobs lost. But so huge is the backlog of mail that’s been building up – at one time there were up to 26,000 items of mail, backed into a corner and filling up half of the office – that they’ve had to re-employ the eight full-time employees who had previously taken voluntary redundancy, just to clear it.

They’ve now agreed that the office actually needs five more full-time staff. But, here’s the trick: the new staff will be working on much less favourable contracts than the guys they are replacing.

Which, you might suggest, is the entire purpose of the exercise.

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  1. c teach
    January 31, 2011 at 2:41 pm

    The Park and Loop method is supposed to save money but this is a lie; it is disgraceful that such blatant dishonesty comes from the senior management of a company that looks for honesty in the staff.. Park and Loop has not been trialled and no post(wo)man was consulted.. Nobody anywhere has been shown the financial modelling for Park and Loop.

    A simple test shows that the reasoning is financially flawed: Park and Loop replaces 2 bicycles with a van; a van costs about £35 a week to run and 2 bicycles cost about £3 a week to run. This is based on the running costs of a Vauxhall Corsa van with running costs of 30 pence a mile compared to Mailstar delivery bikes with a life of 7 years.

    Park and Loop deliverately ignores the problems of the manual handling to the trolley to and from a van, loading it with mail and pulling it over rough ground and up hills, bearing in mind that ALL terrains are encountered in the work of delivering to all addresses in the UK.

    The Park and Loop method has two postal workers going to parking places where the van is left so the two postal workers then work from a trolley to deliver mail by walking.

    Vans cause pollution, are delayed in traffic, have the need for parking spaces and require at least one of the post(wo)men to have a valid drivng licence and be willing to drive a van. Bicycles do not pollute, are not delayed in traffic, do not need a parking space and nobody needs a licence to use one.

    Park and Loop was not planned by anyone who has done the job of delvering mail and no post(wo)man was asked before its implementation.

    Given that Royal Mail is definitely to be privatised, the Park and Loop method, as one of several revisions of the operation, introduces an inefficient practice. Ultimately, the office staff responsible for bad work practices shall not be held responsible and the sale of Royal Mail must go ahead regardless of damage to its value..

    We need privatisation. Now consider that any company taking over needs only the delivery staff as, to another delivery company, Royal Mail office staff represent a duplication of effort. Only then will the grossly inefficient work practices in Royal Mail management be done away with.

    Perhaps the privatisation will lead to only the most profitable parts of the business being continued by the new operation, but the alternative is for Royal Mail to continue as it is with the baggage of civil service practices, and its politically minded adversarial management.

  2. January 31, 2011 at 8:01 pm

    Well I agree that park & loop is based upon some very dodgy figures, but I don’t agree that we need privatisation. What we need is a brand new management committed to the idea of public service, with a long term agenda to advance the service. These practices aren’t “civil service practices” as you describe them, but privatisation practices, preparing the business for its impending privatisation.

  3. c teach
    February 4, 2011 at 5:33 pm

    The Royal Mail management is founded on the civil service clerical system dating back to world war two, when secrecy was important and efficiency was irrelevant. That inherited structure survives today with the significant difference of the now huge number of office staff.

    Incoming managers, versed in adversarial management methods, can do little more than read balance sheets. How many senior managers were delivery staff? There are NONE in my area. The dissatisfaction of delivery staff is not an opinion, it is factual and an indicator of bad management.

    It is a simple exercise to compare Royal Mail practices, such as Park and Loop, with those of a private delivery company. Where else have you seen Park and Loop used? Royal Mail is a delivery network; it requires only delivery staff, logistical management and payroll. Anything else is baggage.

    You cannot overlook the remit from government to dismantle the operation in the interest of ‘fairness’ so let us not pretend that this is the same as efficiency.

  4. knitgirl
    July 1, 2011 at 2:29 am

    here they are making 150 call park and loops.
    they think that by purchasing a van for every letter carrier we are somehow ‘modernizing’ the post.
    don’t believe Moya and her lies.

    hang in there!!

  1. March 4, 2015 at 10:56 am

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