Royal Mail wrangles huge backlog, suspends some services

Jo Francis
Tuesday, December 22, 2020

There’s a glimmer of good news at Royal Mail, which has reached an accord with the CWU after a long-running dispute. However, pre-Christmas chaos caused by a huge increase in parcel volumes combined with new Covid-19 restrictions has caused the group to suspend some of its usual delivery guarantees.

Royal Mail: dealing with "exceptionally high volumes"
Royal Mail: dealing with "exceptionally high volumes"

Today (22 December) the Communication Workers Union (CWU) said it had reached an agreement with Royal Mail Group on "job security, pay, a reduction in the working week and a growth strategy to create our future".

“Our union believes it is an excellent agreement for postal workers, customers and company alike. It also demonstrates that in this unprecedented period of crisis, it offers a way forward that demonstrates what 'being in this together' really means,” the union said. 

The deal includes a two-year pay deal backdated to April 2020 worth 3.7% and a one hour reduction in the working week. 

The CWU will also support the development of a 24/7 operation for parcels. There will be no compulsory redundancies as “the stated objective of Royal Mail is now one of job creation”, the CWU added.

Royal Mail commented: “We now need to work together with CWU to implement the changes we need, in order to capitalise on the significant growth we have seen in parcels so far this year. We continue to work with CWU to operationalise and finalise the detail on many aspects of this agreement.”

Separately, the postal operator is still dealing with a monster backlog of parcel deliveries caused by a massive increase in online shopping, with some reports estimating that an additional 200m parcels have been sent this season.

Royal Mail has even had to apologise on behalf of some retailers – disgruntled Boots customers have received an apologetic email from Royal Mail after their deliveries failed to arrive as expected.

“The combination of greatly increased uptake of online Christmas shopping, in no small part driven by the recent lockdown, and the ongoing Covid restrictions mean that all delivery companies are experiencing exceptionally high volumes this year,” Royal Mail said.

The CWU tweeted that its members were “doing absolutely everything they can to keep the country connected”.

Royal Mail has also suspended its Special Delivery guarantee for items posted via that service tomorrow (23 December), which would previously have definitely arrived on Christmas Eve.

It said the impact of the latest coronavirus restrictions meant it could no longer provide a guarantee that items posted on Wednesday 23 December would arrive prior to Christmas.

One mailing expert said he hoped that service levels would be restored after Christmas.

“January is a busy time for us and clients are crossing their fingers and hoping that once Christmas is out of the way, things will resume. It’s important that clients have confidence that things will drop when they should do.

“I absolutely understand the issues that Royal Mail is dealing with, my worry is do they understand the implications because clients cannot operate with that level of uncertainty,” he added.

Royal Mail has also temporarily suspended some international services due to the border closures, chaos at ports and UK flight bans put in place because of the new virulent strain of Covid-19 detected here.             

“This is a fast-moving situation and we are monitoring things on an hourly basis. We are working to keep as many international mail services running as possible given the current restrictions around air, road, ferry and train movements from the UK,” Royal Mail explained.

Continental rival Deutsche Post DHL also said it had been forced to completely halt deliveries of packages and letters containing goods to Britain and Ireland until further notice.

Separately, Royal Mail has marked the delivery of more than 500m items of PPE to the NHS and care home workers with special branding on some of its vehicles. 




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