Saturday, 24 October 2009

Strikes and all that

Ok, I've been avoiding commenting on the strike but what the hell.
It is very frustrating to read journalists writing about Royal Mail, because mostly they have very little knowledge of how the system works. Many people still think that being a postie is some kind of gentle stroll round the streets chatting to people as you go and stopping off for numerous cups of tea and getting home for lunch. For a start, the time you get your post is not an indicator of how efficient Royal Mail are. If a postman does (as we do here) an average round of 4 1/2 hours, then some people will always get their post by 9.30am and some people will always, especially if they live in a little village in the middle of nowhere, get theirs at 2pm. Our start times have been pushed back to such an extent that there is *no such thing* as post arriving at 7.30am any more.
When I first started here I found it amazing that you could go home early if you finished all your work. My shortest working day ever has been 4 hours. There is no other job where this happens. But the times when you are early has got less and less as the workload has increased, and since the last dispute we now have 'swings and roundabouts', where time you save one day is balanced against any time you go into overtime on another day.
The management view is now that we are a 'business' with all that that entails. My opinion is, and remains, that Royal Mail is a public service. It should not be even part-privatised. No other company could possibly set up a comprehensive delivery network. Royal Mail has what is called the 'Universal Service Obligation', which means every household has a right to a daily postal delivery. It is not fair that any company coming into the market should not have to fulfil the same obligations, but of course this is not the case and companies can come in and cherry pick the easy bits of the service, collecting and processing bulk mailings and then getting Royal Mail to deliver them for a pittance. Pay really isn't the primary issue this time, we are fighting now to keep a decent service for the public and to have a say in how the company changes.
I am not sure I want to get into the 'all we get now is junk mail' and 'the internet is taking over' kind of arguments, because for many people the postal service remains a vital part of their life. I think that there will be many changes over the next 20 years. I personally hope junk mail will be taxed out of existence, even though it keeps me in a job. My environmental sensibilities clash frequently with my job when I have to drive a mile to deliver a letter I know will go straight in the bin. Though on the other hand shopping by post is much more environmentally friendly; people stay home and wait for stuff to be bought to them.
So I have been on holiday the last few days and was saved the problem of deciding whether to strike. I did last time, mounting a lonely picket line outside my office which the others all crossed, though it earned me the respect of people down in Gloucester Mail Centre. This time lost income is something more of an issue and I feel that the issues are more wooly and that the union should have tried harder to avoid this confrontation (you wonder if some of them like all the media attention). It makes us look if we want to preserve some kind of 'nostalgic' image of what we do, and press stories about ruining Christmas really don't help get public support. All in all, it's a big mess and talking is the only way out of it.
Anyway, I am not sure I always like Spiked's attitude (argumentative for the sake of it) but I did read this excellent article about the postal dispute. It counters very well the way the dispute has been presenting in the media.
Back to knitting now, working on more socks:-)

1 comment:

  1. I think the union has done a bad job of presenting the reasons for the strike to the public. Of course, I also think the media is just exacerbating the issues, and seem to spend all of their time interviewing politicians and small business people and people in the street, to talk about being victims of the strike. Where are the interviews with union representatives and postal workers? Where is the discussion of the issues? I am dismayed that the Labour party, which is supposed to support unions, have been defending themselves to the Conservatives, by apparently agreeing that a raised awareness and union militancy is a bad thing. It is a shame that strikes have so little power these days. I don't want to roll be controlled by corporations whose only motivation is profit. I don't want my postal service privatised!

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