CWU reps in Royal Mail CE ‘pivotal’ to success of home working  


CWU reps Sara Wright and Steve Keeley (pictured) have been instrumental in setting up working-from-home arrangements for members working at Royal Mail’s largest Customer Experience (CE) site in Doxford, Sunderland.

And the national WFH agreement between the union and the company, which was announced earlier this week, has provided much-needed reassurance and certainty for everyone, they report.

The joint protocols – which cover CE sites at Bangor, Dearne, Glasgow, Plymouth and Stoke as well as Doxford – cover all aspects of WFH, ensuring work is carried out safely and to the appropriate standard, while also providing the choice for CE employees to work in the office if they prefer.

“Out of a total of 304 staff here, we have 214 working from home,” says Sara, and Steve adds: “As our national officer Andy Furey said the other day, we can’t envisage an early rush back to the office – despite the Government’s new strategy.

“We haven’t had a single one of our WFH members asking to come back in.”

Those who have remained working in the office have chosen this option for various reasons and both Steve and Sara have remained working in the office because they decided, as CWU reps, that they see their duty as staying onsite as long as there are members there.

When the COVID-19 ‘Stay Home’ policy was first introduced, Steve and Sara, along with their colleague Nik Ballard, volunteered to help set up their fellow workers with home-working facilities and training.

“Members were given two WFH options,” explains Steve, “the first is using their own laptop, which then needs to be connected to the Royal Mail system using VPN, or booking out and taking home a Royal Mail laptop, which is already connected to the company’s systems.

“We’ve spent an hour or so with each person, going through the procedures and helping establish their WFH routine and then set them up to work with either their own laptop or the company one here in the office as a test before they book out and start home working,” Steve explains.

And the three of them have continued to provide back up and support to WFH members experiencing any technical issues from their own homes.

“The majority of calls we’ve had from members have mostly been due to the practical differences in working from a laptop compared with the larger desk-based units they’re used to working on here,” says Sara – “but this is just a case of being patient and getting used to the change.

“But if they’re having operational problems, we’ll talk through this with them over the phone – taking over their screen remotely if that’s needed – or if the laptop needs replacing, one of us can go to their home and, safely, deliver them a replacement.”

Both reps report that feedback from management is that the overall operation of the company’s Customer Experience division has been unaffected in terms of quality of service by this significant change and that the nationally agreed protocols and procedures – which site reps have had input and involvement with – have been well received by members.

“They know now, that there won’t be a sudden change back to the previous set up, or a casual drift back either,” says Steve, “because thanks to the union, changing the current set up will only be done via another negotiated and agreed process.”

CWU assistant secretary Andy Furey says that he is “pleased that, by working with CE management we have been able to find a solution that works for everyone and obviously, our reps on the ground have played a pivotal role in this success.

“I’m therefore glad our members’ contribution in these extremely challenging times is being recognised in a small way with the £200 payment from Royal Mail,” he adds.