The letter, sent last night (30 March) and jointly signed by CWU general secretary Dave Ward and his deputy Terry Pullinger, outlined what CWU feels “is the right position for the company and the government to immediately adopt in relation to Royal Mail Group and the services it provides”.
Earlier this month, CWU members voted resoundingly in favour of strike action but offered to convert to an additional “emergency service” in light of the coronavirus outbreak.
In its new letter, the union said Royal Mail should “immediately introduce an emergency network” based on the following principles:
• If Personal Protective Equipment is not in place for all employees, or in any workplace, then that office should cease its operations until the equipment has been provided to all employees. This includes gloves and hand sanitisers
• If social distancing measures are not in place, in line with the government advice of being two metres apart, then the office should be closed until this is rectified
• The company should cease acting as a commercial operation and instead operate as a vital national service, in line with the government giving postal workers key worker status
• All unaddressed advertising mail should be immediately suspended
• The government contracts enabling public testing and the delivery of government information to the public must be prioritised
• In conjunction with the government, Royal Mail's infrastructure should be used to help the country during this crisis, for example to check on the elderly and vulnerable to flag up any concerns, and to collect and deliver food parcels and likewise with medical prescriptions and equipment
• As a strictly one-off resolution to the current crisis, daily deliveries should be reduced to three times a week with only parcels/packets and first class mail being delivered on alternate days
CWU said Royal Mail “should make an immediate public statement on the above mentioned introduction of an emergency network”.
The union also proposed the following:
• All employees should only be compelled to work alternate days, thereby cutting in half the amount of people in any operational unit on any one day, to enable strict social distancing and total equipment cleansing prior to each day
• Every effort should be made to secure the testing of Royal Mail employees to identify and respond to high risk in all units
• Everyone over 65 should only be at work if they are happy to do so, and if not should be placed on special leave with full pay for the duration of the crisis
• All vulnerable/at risk employees as identified by Public Health England advice should all now be on full pay for absences relating to coronavirus
• All employees with vulnerable/at risk people at home should be allowed 12 weeks on full pay
• Where someone within the work location has been diagnosed with the virus, the workplace should be shut for a deep clean before re-opening for business
• The use of private cars as a contingency measure should cease
• Agency workers should only be used in the event that there is a genuine shortfall in the alternative working daily resourcing and the prioritised delivery of first and second class USO mail and parcels, and all agency workers must meet strict vetting criteria
“We believe the above emergency service principles should be introduced immediately. We are available to discuss with you any alternative suggestions that protect our members, help minimise the spread of the virus, whilst maximising Royal Mail as an emergency service to help the country,” the statement concluded.
Royal Mail had outlined the measures it was currently taking amid the coronavirus outbreak last week. In a trading update published on Friday, the company said it continues to expect full-year 2019-20 group adjusted operating profit (before IFRS 16) of £300m to £340m.
It added that with “significant uncertainty going forward”, it expects its UK parcels, international and letters (UKPIL) business to be materially loss making in full-year 2020-21 and its General Logistics Systems (GLS) business profitability to be significantly reduced.
The board intends not to propose a final dividend, to preserve cash, and it has suspended guidance for 2020-21 and beyond.
Finally, the company said previously highlighted delays to its UKPIL transformation plan, when combined with uncertainty around the length and impact of the coronavirus pandemic, mean it will now take longer to achieve the targets laid out in its Journey 2024 plan.