Just days after the Communications Workers Union offered to make posties the fourth emergency service, its membership has raised eyebrows by crying foul over the amount of direct mail they are being forced to deliver, despite the fact that advertising mail shores up the entire postal service.
With most retail outlets, other than supermarkets, off-licences, chemists, corner shops and hardware stores, in Covid-19 lockdown, unsurprisingly those with online operations are banking on a sharp increase in business and it seems are turning to “advertising mail” to promote their products and services.
Although the CWU has yet to take an official line on the delivery of direct mail, it has reported that its membership is revolting.
A CWU spokesperson said: “Two weeks ago we announced an overwhelming strike ballot result but said that we weren’t going to call strike action during this period because it would be irresponsible. We said we want postal workers to become an additional emergency service in the UK. We believe this could really help the country in these unprecedented times.
“But there has to be a serious discussion around the prioritisation of mail now: NHS letters, coronavirus testing kits, food parcels, we want them delivered by Royal Mail. What we don’t want to be delivering is ‘here’s the latest shopping offers’ – what the public would call junk mail. The public has to be thinking about needs and wants. Some people are just clearly at home bored buying all sorts of rubbish.”
Employee forums have been inundated with complaints. One postal worker wrote: “We are currently delivering video games and leaflets for local restaurants, when instead we could be ones who reduce the requirement for the elderly to go out to get food. The infrastructure we have can be used for good, but delivery of non-essentials must not come before our health.”
Another said: “We could be safe from this virus. But because the Royal Mail see Mother’s Day cards as essential work, apparently we all have to risk our lives and the safety of the country now.
“You’re out exposing yourself and your families to this deadly virus for the ‘essential work’ of Screwfix magazines and eBay jewellery. Yes, we should have a skeleton service for coronavirus and other essential mail – medical supplies, groceries and toiletries. All other services should stop.”
In response, Amazon maintained that many customers had no other choice. The firm said: “We are prioritising the intake and dispatch of items most needed by our customers right now. These are items such as food, health and personal care products, books and items needed to work from home.”
Royal Mail insisted it was bringing in new delivery practices, including delivering unaddressed mailings at the same time as addressed letters or parcels. It said it had implemented new rules limiting the staffing of delivery vans to one person and physical distancing at sorting offices.
A spokesman said: “We are required to deliver the Universal Service through the market and without recourse to a public subsidy. The Universal Service provides a lifeline to businesses and communities everywhere and we are proud to provide it. Door-to-door mailings and marketing mail are a very important means of paying for the Universal Service and supporting the delivery of all mail – including important documents such as hospital appointments and medical prescriptions.
“The delivery of parcels and letters is a key way of keeping the country together and helping many people who may not have the option to leave their homes. Their work at this time is hugely appreciated. We are proud of our people whenever they are able to go beyond the call of duty and help the local community in a safe way in these difficult times.”
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