Keeping the pipeline pumped, new hubs and driver training opportunities 

Postal, Royal Mail Group (EMP)

Assistant secretary Davie Robertson spoke to CWU News after yesterday’s divisional reps briefing, and updated us on latest developments and new opportunities across the Royal Mail operation.

 Q: What news did you have for today’s briefing about the two new parcel hubs Davie?

Well, today was a very good opportunity to brief people and expand the debate on the new additions to the pipeline. Within the context of Pathway to Change, we’re very much on a growth agenda and as pre-commitments to the PtC agreement, the business had already invested heavily in the two new parcel hubs.

So, there’s the North West Hub in Warrington (Cheshire) which is now, effectively, almost complete and the Midland Hub in the Crick area (Northamptonshire), the building of which is now up, although it’s yet to be fitted out.

These are two significant new sites and a big investment from the company, so clearly, they will have an influence on the shape of the network going forward. Therefore, it’s very important that we place ourselves in the best possible position to deal with that change and today was part of that journey.

Q: It was mentioned today that the Midland Hub will have a railway terminal adjacent to it. Will that mean more of the mail volumes will be moved this way?

Yes, the Midland Hub will be a very large parcel-sorting facility and it also will have a rail hub. Not integral, but certainly onsite. I think anybody who watches the news and keeps abreast of developments, of the ‘Green Agenda’, will know that, increasingly, all companies come under pressure to reduce their carbon footprint.

And certainly, the rail facility at the Midland Parcel Hub will allow a significant increase in the amount of traffic moving by rail rather than road. So that is certainly a new development and, again, something we’ll have to work through the detail of and make sure that we’re in a position to deal with.

Of course, the fact that the business is in a growth environment – and the commercial forecasts remain strong in terms of parcel growth in the coming years – means that this does not signal any end to road transport, it probably will just mitigate what would be the increase in road transport. But certainly, it is new and something we will have to work our way through.

Q: On that last point, you also talked about the enormous current demand for HGV and artic drivers and that’s another issue the whole country’s facing at this time isn’t it? What’s the CWU doing within Royal Mail to address this?

That’s one of the most pressing issues of the time. In Royal Mail and across the economy. Watch the news any day and probably the first story will be pipeline difficulties, supply chain problems etc. And that affects every part of the UK. Royal Mail is probably less affected than some other companies, because of course our members’ terms and conditions are extremely competitive for HGV drivers.

But Royal Mail is facing driver shortages too and we are actively talking to the company about this.

And, probably for the first time in many years, we’ve got an opportunity to really nail down what will, hopefully, be a ground-breaking driver training programme to try and ensure that current Royal Mail employees, our members, get the opportunity to progress to professional driving grades if they choose to do so.

So, while it is something of a crisis in the UK just now, we think there is now an opportunity for our members. The business appears to be interested in working with us to provide real driver training programmes for our members, which I think they will welcome.

Q: So the CWU is at the forefront of pushing hard to make sure our members can get the most from this?

Absolutely. It’s almost self-evident. Every crisis demands a solution and if the reality is that there is a UK shortage of LGV drivers, and the market for those LGV drivers becomes ever-more competitive, then why would we not turn to the in-house resource we have? There is absolutely an appetite for training. We see it all the time. My department gets enquiries on a daily basis from people who are interested in being trained to become an MGV driver or an LGV driver.

We have an in-built resource in Royal Mail who are keen to take up those roles and surely now is the the time to facilitate a process that allows them to do that.

There is an opportunity here now, probably the biggest opportunity we’ve had in a number of years, to convince the business that the time is right to embark on an extensive driver training programme across Royal Mail.