Central to the Royal Mail ‘Pay Offer and Modernisation Agreement 2007/09’ are the sections on ‘flexible working’.
These put the workforce at the minute-to-minute disposal of the employer in a way never before attempted by an employer in relation to a British trade union.
Implementation is due on 8th October 2007 and is bound to meet the all-out resistance of Royal Mail workers, since the only way the Communication Workers Union (CWU) would continue to exist is as a Labour Front appendage of the employer.
The rejected Royal Mail document states:
‘2. Flexible working
‘In order to become a competitive and responsive business Royal Mail needs to be able to use its resources very effectively, efficiently and to adapt a pace. There are three key strands in the flexibility package agreed between Royal Mail and CWU:
• New technology – Royal Mail Letters is making a £1.2 billion investment as part of its business plan. The majority of expenditure will be on new equipment and technology. As new equipment is rolled out Royal Mail are committed to providing a safe and effective operation. In return employees will take part in trial activity and use all new equipment.
• Flexibility – People who work for Royal Mail will be expected to be flexible when requested to cover any work within the office.
‘l Flexible attendances – More flexible attendance patterns will be introduced to improve alignment to workload efficiency and a better work-life balance for our people. Examples of these flexible attendances below.
‘People will cover any work that they have been trained to do in the hours they have been scheduled to work each day.
‘We want a mature relationship with Managers, trade unions and employees working together to create responsive and agile organisation, which can react to customer needs and difficult operational circumstances, for example in delivery offices there would be full indoor co-operation to ensure the indoor task is completed and gets all deliveries out as scheduled.
‘High absence levels in unit, unforeseen,
• Driver asked to take part of a walk to assist.
• Adjacent deliveries asked to take a street, couple of streets or part of walk.
• Callers office A plus employee asked to cover a walk or part walk.
• In Mail Centres any colleague who works in the unit will cover any task trained to do, driver, warehouse and processing.
‘Colleague request short notice leave request.
• Colleagues on adjacent walks agree to cover elements of walk.
• Switch one person into callers office and cover walk by flexing walks and hours.
• LSM colleague requires time off or leave, manual sorter covers LSM.
Bulk Posting comes in at relatively short notice, severe weather causes excessive delay to arrivals etc.
• A number of people asked to come in slightly earlier to deal with increased IPS. 6.00am instead of 6.30am.
• Due to arrivals not connecting to due day, people finish earlier than expected so come in slightly earlier next day to cope with later arrivals.
• Due to either of the above people complete their walks to ensure service without cutting off.
• Mail Centre people stay later on shift to clear work and where possible come in later next day.
‘Flexible Attendance – worked example
‘People will flex their attendance daily when required by up to two hours a day – for start and / finish times.
‘Phase 1: People will work different hours on different days of the week to reflect the normal workload patterns in their office and different hours in winter and summer to reflect the seasonal changes in volumes. We will introduce more flexible employment contracts to support a range of new approaches such as seasonal and term time working and offer a wider range of options designed to meet the different needs of our people and the business.
‘From 1st October 2007
• Permanent adjustments to individual or groups of attendances made:
* Reasons for change explained and clearly communicated by managers
* 7 days notice provided
* + / – 2 hours to start and finish
* Individual difficulties discussed and sorted on case by case basis
• Different lengths of attendance on differing days of week:
* Based on workload and forecast
* Attendance balanced weekly (40 hours)
* Things we could consider are 4 day working, 9 day fortnights, 5 weeks on and one week off etc.
‘Phase 2: Once we have the appropriate systems in place we will introduce banked or annualised hours, which allow us all to be part of a modern, dynamic and flexible business. People will work fewer hours in the summer and during quiet periods and more hours during busy periods such as Christmas and spring and autumn pressure. To facilitate the introduction of annualised hours we will migrate to monthly pay by March 2008.
‘Annualised hours scheme will be phased in from April 2008.’
With such draconian changes in preparation, no wonder Royal mail needs a new Industrial Relations (IR) Framework.
The rejected package states:
‘7. New IR Framework
‘In order to succeed in an increasingly competitive environment, RML (Royal Mail Letters) must be in a position to speedily and effectively introduce new operational practices and products. Change is unsettling and difficult, but RML want to work with the CWU to create a positive working environment where operational effectiveness and quality is achieved through dialogue and engagement – and this means working with a progressive and committed union at the national level, having a local rep structure that matches the organisation’s structure and having open and honest conversations with our staff.
‘The existing IR Framework will therefore be replaced with a simpler version which recognises that change, flexibility and efficiency must be norm.
‘The new IR Framework will also revise union facilities and release arrangements. RML need an accredited rep structure that reflects the structure of the organisation and facility and release arrangements which are more reflective of ACAS and best-practice norms. TUC will be asked to offer examples of UK best practice to inform our decisions by June 2008.’
CWU members will also be asking their leaders to categorically refute Royal Mail claims that the CWU ‘agreed to support’ its pensions proposal.
The rejected document states:
‘The CWU has agreed to support the following proposal. In the circumstance facing the company this represents the best approach for securing the rights which members have accrued and ensuring that pensions remain and sustainable for the future.
‘The CWU agree that:
• RMPP (Royal Mail Pension Plan, a final salary pension scheme – News Line) will be closed for new members.
• For all active members, the retirement age will be increased to 65 in 2010.
• For all active members pensions will be calculated on the basis of CARE (Career Averaged Revalued Earnings), indexed by the Retail Price Index limited to 5 per cent each year.
• They will support the official consultation process which will begin in early October.
• RMPP would be closed to all new members (except for existing members under the age of 18 who would be allowed to join on reaching 18).
• Instead a defined contribution pension plan would be offered after one year’s service. The details of this plan are still to be finalised, but it would include the following features a choice of contribution levels and an appropriate governance structure.
‘Current Active Members:
‘1 Normal Retirement Age: The proposal will ask for comments on the proposal that Normal Retirement will be increased to 65 on 1 April 2010. Members will still be able to draw their pension at 60 if they wish and the actuarial reduction will apply only to service accrued after 1 April 2010.
‘2 Change to Career Averaged Revalued Earnings (CARE). From 1 April 2008 benefits on retirement will be calculated in accordance with the Career Averaged Revalued Earnings.
• Pension accrued up to 1 April 2008 will be indexed for future years by the Retail Price Index (up to maximum of 5 per cent for each year).
• For each year of pensionable service after 1 April 2008, pension will be based on the pensionable earnings for each year, indexed by the Retail Price Index (up to maximum of 5 per cent for each year) and averaged.
‘(a more precise formula will be including in the consultation document).’
That all postal workers reject these proposals is obvious.
They will be looking for an early rejection of the Royal Mail claim by the CWU, that the CWU leadership agreed to the flexibility and pensions proposals which are unacceptable.
Members are demanding that the CWU call national strike action to defeat the government and the Royal Mail, the restoration of the national demonstration to which all trade unions and workers will be invited, and that the CWU calls to the public sector trade unions to follow the example of the prison officers, and to decide that enough is enough, and to take strike action alongside the postal workers.