South Midlands Mail Centre’s four-day week is a win for all


Pictured above: SMMC shift reps Mshama Habimana and Becky Leach (mask exemption), APR Paul Bosworth and sub-APR Rauf Khan

Nearly a quarter of the processing workforce at the Northampton site have now transferred onto new four-day week duty patterns since a local agreement was struck between the CWU and the company late last year…

“So far, we’ve got a total of 159 people on the new pattern, which enables the vast majority to have either Fridays, Saturdays or Mondays off work, improving their work-life balance and giving them more time with their families,” explains area processing rep Paul Bosworth.

For those moving onto the four-day pattern from this week, each shift has increased from eight to 9.5 hours, with the extra time worked being ‘split’ between the start and end of each duty.

“The ‘overlap’ that this creates between the different shifts cuts out the traditional ‘downtime’ during the handover period and has been a boost to productivity,” Paul adds.

This change has followed on from the introduction of a second parcel sort machine (PSM) at the Northampton site.

Paul Bosworth

“Of the 159 total, 37 of these are new full-time, four-day jobs, with all full-time staff on the second PSM now on four-day working duties across all shifts,” continues Paul, who adds that “additionally, a sizeable number of part-time contract extensions have also been introduced as part of the package.

“And as an indication of the improved productivity, the site manager here, Steve James, has told me that due to the four-day duties, our second PSM has achieved the highest induction rate of any unit in the country, that our ‘snow gaps’ (the term we use here for any processing drop during the shift handover period) are closing rapidly and that overall throughputs are up as well.”

Going forward, Paul and his team of reps at SMMC will be sitting down with local management again to agree and set in place further operational and resourcing realignment in accordance with the nationally agreed Pathway to Change.

“We’re aiming to build on the success so far of what’s been achieved here and, hopefully, we want to extend four-day-week opportunities to as many members as possible.

“A big benefit to our members and also an improvement to the operation.”

CWU assistant secretary Davie Robertson says: “This introduction of inventive duty patterns at South Midlands Mail Centre is exactly the innovative approach to resourcing we are attempting to imbed in the current realignment activity across the Mail Centre, RDC and WBC Network.

“If we are serious about reducing agency numbers and dealing with the growing weekend workload then we must move away from the traditional five-day, Monday-to-Friday attendances and the shorter working week brings four and even three-day weeks into scope. 

“As Paul points out, not only can new patterns be effective, but they are also popular with our members.”