11th June 2020 – Post Office: Horizon Scandal – Independent Review and EDM 593
Branches and members will hopefully have had the opportunity to watch Monday night’s Panorama show “Scandal at the Post Office” in which the journalist Nick Wallis investigated what the BBC described as “what could be Britain’s biggest ever miscarriage of justice scandal” with “evidence of a cover-up at the Post Office”. The hard-hitting programme highlighted the cases of several former Postmasters who have suffered terribly after being falsely accused and convicted of theft and/or false accounting. In addition, the BBC Radio 4 Programme – “the Great Post Office Trial” featured the harrowing stories of several more ex Postmasters who were wrongly dismissed and in some cases convicted for accounting shortfalls.
Following the Panorama show, we published a web story which can be accessed via the link below:
Government Announcement – “Independent Review” into Horizon Scandal
The CWU has been calling for a Judge-led independent public inquiry into this national scandal and we thought we had secured this following the commitment given by the Prime Minister Boris Johnson on 26th February in response to a question from Kate Osborne, Labour MP for Jarrow.
Yesterday, Paul Scully MP, Small Business and Postal Affairs Minister announced there would be an “Independent Review” into the Horizon scandal, although it should be noted this will not be led by a Judge. The Chair (who has not yet been appointed) will though be independent of the Post Office and government.
The statement from Paul Scully was as follows:
“I am today announcing the scope of the Independent Review into the Post Office Horizon IT System and Trials which the Prime Minister committed to on 26th February 2020. This followed Post Office Ltd reaching a settlement, in December 2019, of £57.75m to conclude a long-running case brought against it by a group of postmasters over issues related to Post Office’s Horizon IT system…
Government wants to be fully assured that through the review there is a public summary of the failings that occurred at Post Office Ltd, drawing on the judgments from the Horizon case and by listening to those that have been most affected; that lessons have genuinely been learned; and that concrete changes have taken place at Post Office Ltd to ensure that this situation will never be repeated. For these reasons Government has decided to establish an Independent Review.
The Independent Review shall:
Understand and acknowledge what went wrong in relation to Horizon, leading to the Group Litigation Order, by drawing on evidence from the Horizon judgments and affected postmasters’ experiences and identify what key lessons must be learned for the future;
Assess whether the Post Office Ltd has learned the lessons from the criticisms made by Mr Justice Fraser in the “Common Issues” and “Horizon Issues” trials and those identified by affected postmasters and has delivered or made good progress on the organisational and cultural changes necessary to ensure a similar case does not happen in the future;
Assess whether the commitments made by Post Office Ltd within the mediation settlement – including the historical shortfall scheme – have been properly delivered;
Assess whether the processes and information provided by Post Office Ltd to postmasters are sufficient to i) enable both parties to meet their contractual obligations; and ii) to enable postmasters to run their businesses. This includes assessing whether Post Office Ltd’s related processes such as recording and resolving postmaster queries, dispute handling, suspension and termination are fit for purpose. In addition, determine whether the quality of the service offer for postmasters and their relationship with Post Office Ltd has materially improved since the conclusions by Mr Justice Fraser; and
Examine the governance and whistleblowing controls now in place at Post Office Ltd and whether they are sufficient to ensure that the failings that led to the Horizon case issues do not happen again.
The Review will be led by an independent chair who will be announced in due course alongside final timings and terms of reference for the Review.
The Review shall set out Post Office Ltd’s actions in response to the findings of Mr Justice Fraser. While avoiding a re-examination of the findings made by Mr Justice Fraser through the lengthy court proceedings, it must use these and the experiences of affected postmasters as the basis for its work. The Review should not encroach on the work of the Criminal Case Review Commission and the Court of Appeal. The Review should make any recommendations it sees fit, including actions that may, in its view, be appropriate as a result of its findings. The final report will be laid in the Libraries of both Houses upon completion of the review.
In a news story to accompany the above, Paul Scully stated “We are keen to see the review launch as soon as possible, and the publication of draft terms of reference today is an important step toward this.”
Clearly this is a step in the right direction; however in our view it does not go far enough. Our real concern is there will be an inadequate outcome and follow-up to the review’s recommendations which will not be binding on government. Indeed it is not clear who will be responsible for the actions of the review’s findings and we obviously wouldn’t want the final report to be merely “laid in the Libraries of both Houses” gathering dust.
Urgent Question Session – Horizon – House of Commons, 10th June 2020
Yesterday an urgent Question session took place in the House of Commons just after PMQs, brought about by Chi Onwurah, Labour MP for Newcastle Central and Shadow Minister for Digital, Science and Technology. The question was as follows:
“To ask the Secretary of State…. what steps the Government is taking to support sub-postmasters wrongly convicted in the Post Office Horizon scandal”
Chi Onwurah described the Horizon scandal as “the largest miscarriage of justice in our history” and insisted “We need an inquiry not simply to learn lessons but to get to the truth. Only a Judge-led inquiry can do that with the Post Office compelled to cooperate. Will the minister now agree to the Judge-led inquiry we need? It is the very least the victims deserve. We need answers not more delay. We will not rest until we get this and justice for all those wronged in this scandal”.
The question session lasted for just over an hour and the Minister Paul Scully was given a particularly difficult time in regards to his decision not to appoint a Judge to lead an inquiry into the Horizon scandal but instead to launch an independent review. There was a barrage of questions urging the Minister to reconsider and deliver a proper Judge-led inquiry, with almost 20 MPs across all parties calling for this.
A link to the recording of the session is as follows:
During the session there were also calls for all Postmasters to be compensated properly given that all bar £11m of the £58m settlement for those 557 Postmaster involved in the Group Litigation Order will go towards legal costs.
Also, there were calls for former Senior Post Office executives to be questioned with Jerome Mayhew, Conservative MP for Broadland stating “One of the great frustrations to date has been the refusal of the former senior management of the Post Office to answer detailed questions on this issue and to be held to account. Will …. individual culpability of senior management figures within the Post Office be part of this review?”.
Karl Turner, Labour MP for Kingston Upon Hull East, who featured in the Panorama show and has campaigned tirelessly on behalf of Postmasters affected by the Horizon scandal stated “Many hundreds of Postmasters were forced to pay back many thousands of pounds to the Post Office. Monies which were never in fact never owed or indeed missing. That in itself Mr Speaker should trigger a criminal investigation. How much of that money went to pay the previous Chief Executive’s £5m salary? And … why… can you not accept that only a Judge will get to the bottom of this miscarriage of justice?”
The stock response from the Minister to many of the questions was that a Judge-led inquiry would be extremely lengthy in terms of the length of time to conclude and it would also very expensive. Paul Scully insisted that the Independent Chair appointed to lead the review would ensure a timely conclusion and would “get to the bottom” of this matter. Whilst we understand the Minister’s reasoning in part, our strong view is that the only way we can ensure those responsible for these gross miscarriages of justice are brought to account is to conduct an Independent Judge-led inquiry and we will continue to push for this.
EDM 593: Judge-led public inquiry into the Horizon scandal
The following EDM was tabled on 10th June, sponsored by Kevan Jones, Labour MP for North Durham:
“That this House recognises the life-changing injustices experienced by subpostmasters throughout the Horizon scandal; notes with the deepest sadness that subpostmasters have served custodial sentences and suffered bankruptcy for offences they did not commit; recognises the role of the Government in prolonging this crisis through not fulfilling their role of shareholder representation on the board of Post Office Limited; expresses concern at the scope and formation of the inquiry currently outlined by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy; and strongly urges the Government to institute a judge-led public inquiry into this matter at the earliest opportunity.”
We expect this EDM to gain significant support as the Horizon scandal is becoming more high profile due to the Panorama and Radio 4 programmes, the recent press articles and yesterday’s urgent question session in the House of Commons. However, we would urge Branches to write to their MPs at the earliest opportunity to encourage them to sign EDM 593. A model letter template for this purpose is attached for Branches to use.
Darren Jones MP, Chair of the BEIS Select Committee – Response to “Review”
Darren Jones, Chair of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee published a statement in response to the government’s announcement which contained the following salient points:
“The Minister’s announcement of the Independent Review into the Post Office Horizon scandal is welcome. However, without a judge-led inquiry it is not clear this review will have the necessary powers to demand evidence and require witnesses to give evidence.
“To get to the bottom of this scandal, the Government should look at ensuring this review is put on a statutory basis with subpoena powers to summon witnesses and compel them to give evidence under oath.
“The independent Review should look at the respective roles of Post Office Ltd Directors, past and present, and Fujitsu, but also Ministers and officials and their role in holding Post Office Ltd to account. It’s important that those responsible are held accountable and that the Post Office and the Government learn the lessons from this scandal and prevent this mistreatment of dedicated sub- postmasters and postal staff from ever arising again.”
Post Office – Statement in Response to “Review”
The Post Office issued a statement (see link below) following yesterday’s announcement from the Minister which confirmed “The Post Office welcomes the review announced by the Government and we will of course fully and positively engage”. A Post Office spokesperson also stated “We are also leaving no stone unturned for those postmasters with past criminal convictions that may be affected”.
House of Lords – Statement from Lord Callanan
Today there will also be a statement in the House of Lords entitled “Support for sub- postmasters wrongly convicted in the Post Office Horizon scandal” by Lord Callanan.
Press and Media Stories
The Horizon scandal has gained significant press and media interest in the last couple of weeks particularly given the new exposure due to the Panorama and Radio 4 programmes. The Daily Mail has been following the story for some time and has today published an article reporting on the urgent questions session in the HoC yesterday using the headline “Put Post Chiefs in Dock for this gross injustice” and using a picture of former CEO Paula Vennells.
In addition, Computer Weekly has today published an article entitled “Anger as government launches ‘pathetic’ and ‘pointless’ review of Horizon scandal”. The article contains a quote from Lord Arbuthnot who has raised this matter on behalf of Postmasters for many years and featured in the Panorama programme. Lord Arbuthnot said the government review “is a pathetic response to a national outrage”. Furthermore – “The Prime Minister promised to get to the bottom of the Horizon scandal. This anaemic review will fail to do that, because it fails to ask the important questions. The purpose of an independent inquiry should be to establish the truth, rather than to protect the government from any suggestion of blame.”
Whilst we welcome the progress made thus far with the announcement of the Review into this national scandal, we will though continue to put pressure on the government by all means possible to instigate an independent Judge-led public inquiry.
3rd June 2020 – Temporary USO Changes – Cessation Monday 8th June 2020
Branches will be aware that the temporary changes to USO Deliveries on a Saturday were due to cease no later than Saturday 13th June 2020, but that the changes were subject to review.
On receipt of consistent negative feedback from the field on the impact of the cessation of Saturday letter deliveries on the operation, the union has made further representations on our view that normal USO deliveries should be resumed as a matter of urgency.
During discussions today, Royal Mail has confirmed that following consultation with the Regulator, the current temporary arrangement will cease one week early with normal USO deliveries and agreed duty arrangements resuming from Monday 8th June 2020.
We would request that Branches and Representatives engage to ensure that any temporary arrangements are removed and agreed duty and attendance patterns are restored in time for the resumption of normal USO deliveries. For the avoidance of doubt Saturday 6th June 2020 will be the last day of the temporary arrangement to cease Saturday USO letter deliveries.
1st May 2020 -Changes to the USO
Following Royal Mail’s announcement earlier this week that it was changing the USO for 3 months, there have been a number of very significant developments, including separate conversations with the Government and Ofcom and meetings with Royal Mail’s CEO Rico Back.
As a result, we have secured correspondence from the Government, Ofcom and the Chief Executive of Royal Mail, confirming that the change to the USO is temporary.
Furthermore, you will see from the Chief Executive’s letter that Royal Mail have stepped back from all executive action and the temporary change will now be for six weeks, reviewed on a fortnightly basis, taking into account circumstances relating to the pandemic.
The letter from Rico Back also makes it clear that any duty changes will be voluntary, that there will be no job losses, no notice will be served on Scheduled Attendance and that the IR Framework is fully restored and will be utilised, where necessary.
On the basis of the correspondence from the Chief Executive, we can confirm that the Postal Executive has unanimously agreed that we will not be serving notice for industrial action relating to this six week temporary relaxation of the USO. Therefore, we are asking all CWU Representatives to engage positively in local discussions.
The company has also confirmed that they are prepared to meet with us next week to discuss a framework for talks to resolve our current dispute.
Further information from the CWU Postal National Officers dealing with the operational situation will be issued in due course.
In the meantime, we want to thank our Branches, Representatives and members, for the support you have given in ensuring that these crucial issue relating to the USO and our members’ jobs, has for the immediate future been satisfactorily resolved.
29th April 2020 – Royal Mail USO/Executive Action
This is an update to Branches, Representatives and members on the union’s response to the announcement made yesterday by Royal Mail Group regarding the company’s executive decision to suspend Saturday letter deliveries and to impose un-agreed changes to the current operational network and agreed duty structures.
By their actions Royal Mail has derecognised the union and disrespected our members and the customers we serve. They are refusing to adhere to any of our agreements, be they at local or national level.
It is quite clear that this current managerial leadership has no moral compass and has dragged standards of behaviour and industrial relations to an all-time low. Our members have lost full confidence and trust in these people and this planned national executive action is a despicable attempt to use a public health crisis to drive through long-term and highly damaging change.
The changes they advocate go to the very heart of our dispute and our ability to protect the 6 day USO, our members’ jobs and this great public service. We stepped back from our dispute to do the right thing for our nation during this pandemic and Royal Mail Group agreed to do the same but they are now breaking that agreement.
The timing of their action was also in our opinion deliberately planned to coincide with the CWU National Postal Workers day, so when the rest of the nation, including politicians from all parties, were showing their gratitude for our members and this excellent public service, RMG were rewarding them for their efforts with this highly damaging imposition and the very real potential of 20,000 job losses.
Against this backdrop the Postal Executive, following consultation with our Senior Field Officials earlier today, has agreed the following political and industrial response:
- The union will explore with immediate effect and where possible utilise all legal options available to mount a legal challenge against the actions of the company, including if possible a challenge on the reduction of the USO being an unlawful act.
- In line with the relevant legislation it is the union’s intention to draw up the appropriate notices to send to Royal Mail within the legal timeframe that will result in us calling upon our members in Royal Mail to take industrial action in line with the ballot result we announced on 17th March 2020.
- With immediate effect Representatives and members should not cooperate or give any local agreement to any deployment of management’s plan.
- In defiance of the company’s unilateral action, all members should continue to adhere to their currently agreed duty/attendance arrangements.
- The union will issue further guidance on all aspects of H&S standards and compliance with HMG guidance relating to social distancing/PPE within the workplace, the legal obligations of the employer to comply with them as well as the legal requirement for the employer to consult the recognised Trade Union on changes in the workplace which have health and safety implications.
- The DGS(P) Department in conjunction with the General Secretary, Postal National Officers and the Head of Communications will develop a high profile communications strategy, including as a priority an individual letter to all postal members that sets out and exposes in detail the actions of the company and reaffirms the CWU commitment to defend its members, their terms and conditions and the public postal service. The union via the office of the General Secretary will continue to explore all political avenues in challenging Ofcom and the Government.
Any enquiries in relation to the content of the above should be addressed to the DGS(P) Department.
16th April 2020 – CWU PROPOSAL, COVID-19 ESCALATING ISSUES & RESOLVING OUR DISPUTE
CWU Proposal & COVID-19 Escalating Issues.
In light of the COVID-19 crisis, Branches will be aware that the CWU sent an open letter to the business on 30th March outlining a progressive strategy and a statement of proposals that would have ensured that the company was acting in line with its ‘key worker’ status and that the threat of the virus to our members was minimised as much as possible.
The statement was designed to get ahead of the game and the inevitable consequences arising from the escalation of the Coronavirus. Unfortunately it would seem that Rico Back, CEO, took offence at the content of the union’s policy and decided to disengage from further dialogue. However, on 7th April Rico Back reengaged with the CWU on a call that had originally been arranged with Sally Ashford, Chief HR Officer, and Achim Dunnwald, Chief Transformation & Strategy Officer. During the call it was agreed that going forward regular, constructive dialogue would take place between myself and Sally Ashford to seek to deal with and resolve a number of outstanding issues causing major concerns for our members.
Whilst the aforementioned statement has certainly helped to build pressure on the business in terms of PPE provision, the CWU are well aware that social distancing problems still exist in many locations. Clearly the size and location of some units is a factor in this and we believe the proposals contained in our statement would have helped reduce such cases.
We are also aware that there are still a number of outstanding big ticket issues that have to be resolved, including the prioritisation of mail and saving lives, and matters that have been highlighted in feedback the Postal Executive has received from Branches and Divisions. Matters such as lack of flexibility around annual leave, measures for those over 65 years of age and HR policies needed to address full pay for those who are taking care of dependants.
In light of this I have written to Sally Ashford (attached) with the request that the business reconsider our proposal of 30th March and commence dialogue with the union to mitigate the escalation of issues during the COVID-19 crisis and find mutual interest solutions. In addition to this, Carl Maden, Acting Assistant Secretary, continues to work tirelessly to resolve issues relating to sick pay and annual leave.
As I have previously stated, this is an extremely difficult time for our members and Royal Mail Group must be held to task. Whilst talks will be difficult, the escalation process will at least provide another avenue to challenge the company.
Resolving our Dispute.
Although the current Coronavirus pandemic and management’s failure to respond to CWU proposed solutions has naturally taken centre stage recently, it is vital that we do not lose sight of the fact that we are still in dispute nationally. Since the result of the national ballot(s) on 17th March 2020, it is worth recognising that the business has continued to make reference to their desire to resolve the issues that remain in dispute.
Equally there is an outstanding pay rise to be concluded that was due on 1st April 2020. Branches will recall that during our ballots and prior to the COVID-19 crisis, the company unilaterally made an offer of a 6% pay rise over three years directly to the frontline which was unacceptable and rejected by us with a reminder to the business that the 2020 pay settlement is separate from our “honouring the Four Pillars” dispute (as reported in LTB 92/20). RMG’s actions were undoubtedly aimed at confusing the issues in dispute, potentially paving the way for another legal challenge and encouraging members to not support the ballot.
Against that backdrop I have now written to Achim Dunnwald (attached) with the offer of commencing dialogue on the issues in dispute and matters of reward. Branches will note that I have asked the business to provide its views on how the current crisis may impact upon its business plan and the timescales contained therein.
Additionally, in recognition of the sterling work that our members have performed and their continued commitment during this crisis, I have asked for an above inflation pay rise on all aspects of pay to be implemented from 1st April 2020, as well as a one-off payment to recognise the key worker status of our members. It should be noted however that crucially these are separate to the outstanding issues and Shorter Working Week relating to the 2019 pay award.
Colleagues will no doubt recognise that the approach suggested in my letter, including the request to provide an extension to our ballot, will provide the best foundation at this moment in time to progress dispute resolution talks.
In closing I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of our Representatives, at all levels of this union, for the amazing job they are doing, and please stay safe.
Any enquiries in relation to this should be addressed to the DGS(P) Department.
6th April 2020 – COVID 19 – UPDATE
It is with great sadness we have been advised that two postal workers, Bola Omoyeni and Stefan Haluszczak, tragically died in hospital over the weekend after contracting Covid19.
Bola worked at the National Distribution Centre in Northampton and was also a long standing CWU representative, who for many years had held a position at National level on our Race Advisory Committee. He was a friend and colleague to many CWU reps around the country and made a great contribution to representing our members. Bola had spent over 30 years working for Royal Mail.
Stefan was also a long standing employee of Royal Mail, who worked at the Coventry Parcels Hub. He was very well respected in the office and had worked for the company for 8 years.
We are sure we speak on behalf of the whole of the union in sending our sincere condolences to the family and friends of both of our colleagues who passed away.
The union is in contact with our local Branch and Royal Mail to ascertain the full circumstances and we will be supporting our members and the Branch in dealing with the situation.
The thoughts of the whole of the CWU are with the families and friends of our two members who tragically passed away over the weekend.
1st April 2020 – ‘Put workers’ safety and essential service first’ demands CWU
CWU leaders are urging Royal Mail to change the nature of the service during this national emergency, with the strongest possible focus on essential deliveries across the country – while ensuring the safety of all postal workers.
Speaking to the union’s Royal Mail members yesterday evening, our general secretary Dave Ward and deputy general secretary postal (DGSP) Terry Pullinger set out a robust agenda ahead of top-level talks with the business.
During the 90-minute live YouTube/Facebook broadcast, which was viewed by tens of thousands of people from all over the UK, Dave and Terry assured our hard-working postmen and women that the union is “thinking of you and your families all the time.”
Dave Ward insisted: “We don’t want a row with the company, we want to work with the company and with the Government and for the country.
“And we want to do that in a way that really does help the country.”
But on safety, the CWU’s message to members is “very, very clear,” he continued, asking the UK’s postal workers: “Have you got right PPE in place, gloves, sanitisers and is social distancing strictly enforced in your office?”
If the answer to this question is “no,” then the general secretary’s advice was crystal clear – “You should not be working and we will back you.”
Dave and Terry are presenting the union’s comprehensive crisis-working plan to the business, calling for a suspension of all non-essential D2D (unaddressed mails) delivery, a prioritisation of medical equipment and services to the vulnerable, as well as alternating individuals’ working days to reduce numbers in the workplace at the same time.
“At times like this, whether in two world wars or massively adverse weather, our postal services have always sought to operate and step up to that challenge,” said our DGSP.
“And this should be a national service working through a national crisis – but our members are not fodder and they will not be thrown under the bus.”
Taking all vulnerable workers out of the workplace, allowing carers to care for family members if they need to, reducing members’ working week, and focussing on public service and community assistance must be the way forward for Royal Mail for as long as this unprecedented situation continues, the union insists.
“We’ve sat down and thought how we can keep national service going and also protect members and protect lives,” Terry explained.
On a frightening day for the nation, with the largest daily increase in coronavirus fatalities since the crisis began, our deputy general secretary pointed out that many of our members are “truly scared and worried” and that they “absolutely have to have the right protections.”
He explained the reasoning behind the call for a reduced working week for postmen and women, highlighting the reality that, “in many of our buildings, it’s impossible to keep the same amount of people and still work safely and so we need to halve the amount of people coming in on one day.
“Deliver half the mail on one day and then all the vehicles and equipment and work can be cleaned for the others coming in the next day.
“In every other sphere of society there are radical decisions and strategies being put in place – now we’re setting out these bold and radical proposals to Royal Mail.
After our general secretary and DGSP set out the union’s “safety and people first” strategy, they fielded a wide variety of questions from worried frontline workers, praising their efforts, promising full support if they feel unsafe at work and warning those at the top of Royal Mail that they must act urgently.
Putting the questions to our most senior national officers, CWU head of communications Chris Webb took a collection of enquiries from different parts of the country, including delivery offices where workers had refused to work unsafely, individuals claiming unfair treatment by the company of their illnesses and complaints about shortfalls in supply of protective equipment.
Others expressed strong support for the union’s tough stance and praised the hard work of Dave and Terry as well as their local CWU reps.
In response, both Dave and Terry emphasised that if members feel unsafe, if they are not being issued the appropriate protections or if their unit is not practising social distancing, then they have every right, under the law, to refuse to work in unsafe conditions.
And issues around unfair treatment of those off work through illness will be taken up at the highest level at the meeting, they pledged.
In their concluding statements, our general secretary and DGSP both paid moving tributes to our CWU frontline reps in particular, as well as to all members working and serving the nation during this extremely difficult crisis period.
Calling for an “almost military strategic” approach to the current situation, Terry said: “If the company responds positively, we will work with that, but if the company doesn’t respond positively, there will be a clash and a growing clash.”
And Dave said:
“No-one can predict what the outcome will be. It will test you, your families, your workmates and this union to the limit.
“We are doing our best to support you at this time and I hope you take confidence from how we’ve answered your questions.”
26th March 2020 – Vital update on coronavirus and the dispute for all Royal Mail Group members.
We are writing to all CWU members to update you on the Coronavirus crisis and meetings that have taken place with the Chief Executive, Rico Back, and his senior management team, since we announced our ballot result last week.
The Coronavirus Crisis
CWU members across the country are in contact with the union at all levels expressing their major concerns and anxiety about whether or not it is safe to continue working during the Coronavirus crisis.
We want you to know that we could not have taken a stronger position with Royal Mail over social distancing at work and the lack of personal protective equipment for frontline workers.
The Chief Executive and Royal Mail’s senior management team agreed with the union last week, that Royal Mail must enforce Government and UK Public Health advice to the letter. However, we recognise that what is being said at national level by the company is not the reality in far too many offices on the ground. We also acknowledge that Government advice and the advice of the UK Public Health Authorities, has not been clear enough and is creating confusion for workers across the country, most notably for key workers, including those who work in the NHS. In the absence of any conclusive Government or medical advice, the CWU issued at the start of this week, the strongest advice we can to protect our members. For the purpose of complete clarity this advice is set out again below:-
“If any CWU member does not feel safe at work through lack of social distancing or personal protective equipment, they should not work. We will support any individual member or office that takes this position. This is not a call for workers to take unofficial industrial action, but it is a clear statement on the grounds of health and safety that we will support our members.”
The truth is, the situation is different across the country and we are not in a position to give a blanket instruction. This would be wrong and not in the interests of our members and the sustainability of your jobs and the business.
Furthermore, the country’s medical professionals are not giving conclusive medical advice on how the virus spreads and whether or not it’s safe to work. Therefore, the position the union has taken is the right one at this juncture. We are also asking our representatives at all levels to issue the above mentioned advice.
We can also advise that we are pressing the company to prioritise services as sick absence and self-isolation increases. We have told Royal Mail that it is wrong for them to be delivering door to door items and continuing with absorption during the crisis. We expect the company to move to our position on these points in the next day or so.
Update on our dispute
Since we announced our ballot result last Tuesday, we have had three meetings with the Chief Executive and the senior management team. These meetings have prioritised the Coronavirus crisis, but we have also had discussions on resolving our dispute and our offer for Royal Mail to act as an additional Emergency Service.
The position we have reached to date on the dispute, is as follows:-
• The company has confirmed that they will cease all executive action that had been announced but not yet deployed.
• The company has confirmed that their 2024 Strategy Plan for the future is on hold and that they are now prioritising how we deal with the Coronavirus crisis.
• The company has confirmed their plan to TUPE Parcelforce members into a separate company has now been put on hold.
• The company has confirmed that they are willing to agree a process for talks to resolve all issues in dispute.
The above mentioned should be seen as good progress, although the union want the company to go further on reviewing executive action that has already taken place and we will hold them to the positions above and also press for an extension to our ballot. However, we do recognise that at the moment contingency planning for the Coronavirus crisis will take precedence in our day to day operations.
We want to make it clear that we remain in dispute with the company but we recognise that dealing with the Coronavirus crisis, protecting our members’ health and safety and addressing the sustainability of jobs and the business, must be the priority. We have set up regular meetings at national and divisional level to deal with all these issues and we are posting regular updates on Facebook and we will be utilising other communications channels to keep our members informed.
CWU offer to utilise Royal Mail as an additional Emergency Service
We are firmly of the view that subject to prioritising the health and safety of our members at work and the advice we have issued in this letter, it continues to be right for the union to pursue our offer of utilising our members and Royal Mail as an additional Emergency Service.
We continue to press the company to make a public statement on this and we are due to meet a Government Minister on Monday to discuss all the issues contained in this letter. As well as wanting to help the country, our offer is part of a strategy to sustain our members’ jobs and the business in the future. We have long believed that Royal Mail should be freeing up our members and empowering them to be part of developing the future with local to local services, in addition to providing daily deliveries through the Universal Service Obligation. In many ways this goes to the heart of our current dispute with the employer.
Without wishing to score political points during these unprecedented times, we should all be concerned that the Government and Royal Mail’s failure to seriously pick up our offer thus far, whilst at the same time allowing competitors like Amazon and Uber to take precedence, does not bode well for the future.
It is absolutely right that postal workers across the UK were given key worker status. We now need to build on this and we are asking our representatives and members to work with their local managers and communities to push and enact our offer wherever possible. In the meantime, we will continue to discuss this with the company and the Government and we anticipate that there may be some Government contracts being offered to Royal Mail, specifically relating to urgent work needed to deal with the current crisis.
We will keep you informed of developments on all these issues and we thank you for your continued support.
Stay safe and strong, these are extraordinary times and the union will continue to do what’s right for our members and your families.
17th March 2020 – Latest Royal Mail Dispute Information.
|LTB 134/20 – Royal Mail Group Dispute |
16th March 2020
TO: ALL BRANCHES
ROYAL MAIL GROUP DISPUTE
Following the result of our industrial action ballot, conveyed in LTB’s earlier today, the purpose of this LTB is to update Branches on developments in the dispute and explain how we must now prioritise the Coronavirus crisis, which is unfortunately having a major impact on our members, the country and the business.
In the last week there has been a significant exchange of correspondence between the Union, the Chief Executive and the Chair of the Royal Mail Group Board.
This culminated in the union making a formal proposal to the company last Friday, addressing the Coronavirus pandemic, all Royal Mail executive action, any potential for imminent industrial action and a process for talks to resolve the dispute.
It is clear that the country faces unprecedented times and as the Coronavirus crisis deepens and the government restrictions on self-isolation and social-distancing increase, it’s crucial that the union places this at the forefront of our considerations.
Therefore, we have made it clear to the company that we must now jointly prioritise the health and safety of our members, consider how we can help the country by utilising the infrastructure and daily reach of Royal Mail to play an expanded social role and discuss the sustainability of the business.
We have also made it equally clear that the company must immediately cease all executive action and jointly resolve any changes that have already been imposed in workplaces.
We are meeting Royal Mail tomorrow the 18th March and we will advise Branches of developments in due course. At this juncture, the Postal Executive has agreed that it is not appropriate to call any industrial action.
Please convey the full content of this LTB to our members in all workplaces.
Dave Ward General Secretary
Terry Pullinger Deputy General Secretary (P)
ROYAL MAIL GROUP NATIONAL BALLOT – VOTE YES
From today ballot papers will land at the home addresses of all Royal Mail and Parcelforce members.
When your post arrives at home today we would urge you to use your vote and to vote YES. There has never been a more critical time to support your union. We have put together some ballot day videos for you to enjoy;
Marathon Facebook Live session
CWU Dispute video
Dave Ward General Secretary final message
Terry Pullinger Deputy General Secretary (Postal) final message
Finally, tomorrow (5th March) is National Get The Vote Out Day. We urge every single office in the UK to
1. Hold a gate meeting and
2. WhatsApp us a silent video to 07583725644 – here is an example of the type of video we want
The time is now – vote YES