‘Royal Mail very slow to take workers’ safety seriously’ - union speaks after delivery office walk-out
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Royal Mail has been accused of “putting profit before people’s health and safety” as staff walked out of the Bury St Edmunds delivery office over working conditions during the coronavirus crisis.
Paul Moffat, regional secretary of the communications union CWU, said a new work station, presumably to cope with the increased demand, had been put in at the Skyliner Way delivery office but this had meant staff were being forced to work within one metre of each other.
As a result, the current workforce of about 80 people walked out of the sorting office for about 1.5 hours this morning while the situation was resolved, which involved discussions between the union and management.
A Royal Mail spokesperson said there had been a “minor disruption to service”, adding it takes the health and safety of its colleagues, customers and communities “very seriously”.
MORE: Factory staff have redundancies brought forward over coronavirusMr Moffat said: “It comes down to one thing, social distancing, and whether members feel that has been breached. The members have reacted and this is the outcome of it.
“As a union we have said ‘if you don’t feel safe, don’t work’. There’s not a lot more we can do to protect our members.”
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He said Royal Mail had been “very slow” to take the issue of workers’ safety during the pandemic seriously, adding it was “putting profit before people’s health and safety”.
“The problem is they are still running the business as a commercial business as opposed to being a business with key workers in it,” he said.
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“Royal Mail delivery postmen and women are classed as the fourth emergency service because they are working in the communities. They can keep an eye on people within the community.”
Nationally, Mr Moffat said there had been a 51% rise in parcel traffic, adding this increased demand was impacting on the safety of postal workers.
“Some of it is essential stuff, but a lot of the things they are delivering are nonessential items.
“We cannot tell people what they can and can’t order, but there’s no real thought to the Royal Mail workforce who have to maintain this network,” he said.
He said there was a heightened level of anxiety and stress at the Bury delivery office after a couple of workers lost parents to Covid-19.
MORE: Suffolk and Essex health boss thanks public for their supportSpeaking during the walk-out, a postal worker, who asked to remain anonymous, said it was “scary” working there under current conditions.
He said: “It’s fine when you are out, but in the sorting office even though they have split the shifts it’s not enough. There is still too much mail coming in, therefore everybody is running around trying to get them where they have got to be.
“People are ordering too much. They are ordering silly things and we cannot cope.”
He said the situation had been getting “worse and worse”, adding: “The more and more staff go off, it’s more pressured.”
Currently the team was about 40% down on numbers, he said.
He said staff had just wanted “reassurances” over safety, however he admitted it was difficult to stick to the two-metre rule in the sorting office.
“But if you force people to stand right next to each other, shoulder to shoulder, I’m not going to,” he said.
The Royal Mail spokesperson said “any areas of concern” at the Bury office had now been resolved and “we continue to ensure that colleagues stay two metres apart”.
“We have implemented a rule that means there will only be one person in a Royal Mail delivery vehicle at any one time. These new social distancing measures are aimed at offering further protection for our colleagues,” they said.
Nicola Iannelli-Popham, Bury St Edmunds Constituency Labour Party Secretary, said the workers’ concerns were “absolutely” valid.
“These people are really important to keep the country going as well and they are putting themselves at risk every day,” she said.