Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Granny Smith (a work related rant)

I had an unusual birthday at the weekend, including a surprise party, with cake and balloons and everything. I got to spread the occasion over two days as we went to Julie's for Saturday (Tish had a 'visit day' at MMU to meet her tutors and all that jazz) where we had the cake, and then came home first thing on Sunday and had more presents then, plus a nice chat with Lewis, even though it was a pure coincidence that he called:-) So I had a fabulous collection of pressies, which, when you get to my age, you no longer anticipate.

Julie bought me a copy of 'Dear Granny Smith: A letter from your postman', a neat little book that sums up very readably what has been going on in Royal Mail for the last 30 years. It is very frustrating that the media often presents such an over simplified version of what is going on, like the recent agreement reported by the bbc, which focusses on the money, and Christopher Hope at the Telegraph doing the usual hatchet job (and not to even mention the Dispatches fiasco) So it's nice to see a book, which seems to have been quite well received, telling the other side of the story. To be fair it is not a real story, the supposed writer is a bit of a caricature of everything about being a postie, but he is trying to show the reader what the job is about, how the system works and how it has changed over the years. What the book does well is highlight for customers of Royal Mail (and means everyone) how the managerial style has changed, away from an emphasis on the 'public service' aspect of the company, towards a business model that talks in terms of profits and losses, and sees the sending customer as the important part of the equation rather than those on the receiving end. In a way the most important point he makes is that management never come into contact with the public, and so don't see how important that part of our job is. What marks out Royal Mail from other businesses is the the Universal Service Obligation (USO), we have binding legal responsibilities towards our customers that ordinary companies don't. Although the next few years are going to see a lot of changes, we have had rumours about an 8am-4pm day, and machines that will strip full time jobs from the company, I think there is a long term future for a universal postal service. The thing I didn't like about the book is the nostalgia, I get that a lot at work, from people who have been in the job for 15 years+. They go on about getting out on delivery a 7am, 'real' letters with stamps on them, the postmaster who kept all the young ones in line and an ongoing joke about someone making the bacon butties. It's like some idealised version of life as a postie in the 1950's, when life was in sepia and the summers were always sunny. I don't agree that it is all doom and gloom now. I see a good sense of camaraderie in our office, people do work well together. Posties still know their customers, still care about the community they are part of, everyone in our office lives local, most have lived here their entire lives. We do work hard for our money, we do work harder even than when I started 7 years ago. We did a revision and took 40 hours out of our office (on a promise of a share in the savings made, that has never materialised, the non-existent bonus is another running joke), but this is still a good job. Many people would kill for the terms and conditions that we take for granted. I don't object to the idea that I have to work the whole 40 hours that I get paid for, it seems fair. All those nostalgic posties who hanker for the 'good old days' when they went home at 11 o'clock leave me a bit irritated. I try very hard not to worry about the junk that goes through people's letter boxes, it is the presence of the junk that means that the birthday cards and personal letters get the decent service that people expect. I don't believe an e-card or an itunes voucher is ever going to completely replace the "Now you are 10" little boy with a football card and a nice crisp tenner folded inside.


  1. Happy Birthday Martine - I am new to your blog and enjoying it very much! I wish you were my postie but I'd probably just want you to come in for a cuppa and your latest book recommendations!

  2. Happy birthday! (You have such beautiful hair!)


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