‘Put workers’ safety and essential service first’ demands CWUPostal April 1 2020
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.”