Royal Mail’s trials of a new delivery service for parcels – the only part of the business which is still growing – have been hit by a row with the Communications Workers Union, who have blocked the scheme over job cuts for their “brothers” at Parcelforce.
It does not take a genius to work out that, with letter volumes in long-term decline, parcel deliveries are – like Peter Kay’s garlic bread – “the future” for Royal Mail.
Last year, the postal giant said it would be investing a further £1.8bn in its parcel operations over the next five years to tap into the online shopping boom. In its 2018/19 annual results, it revealed that parcel volumes had rised 8% and revenue was up 7%.
As part of the plan, the firm is introducing a second delivery for parcels that will expand in line with demand and be fully operational by 2023.
This second delivery will consist of Next Day parcels, typically purchased online from retailers the evening before, and larger items more appropriate for van delivery. In many cases, the delivery will be less than 24 hours after the order is made.
It is also introducing about 1,400 parcel postboxes across the UK, in what it said was the single biggest change to the traditional red postbox network for over 160 years.
In the new parcel delivery trial, which is due to start in Swindon, large and Next Day packages will be delivered separately by van so that posties do not have to lug them around on their delivery rounds.
The pilot is designed to test the best way for Royal Mail to collect, process and deliver Next Day parcels and larger items; it will be rolled out to other areas next month.
But, it seems, the CWU is having none of it.
A Royal Mail spokesman told the Swindon Advertiser: “Royal Mail is disappointed that the CWU has opposed this trial. The company proactively asked the union for mutual interest talks aimed as a precursor to negotiations.
“In order to get these talks underway, we agreed to defer the TUPE transfer of Parcelforce employees, as well as agree that the dispute resolution processes in respect of the CWU’s point of principle dispute have been concluded.
“In return we asked for the union support in carrying out a number of key initiatives. Deployment of the trials was already agreed in line with Royal Mail’s 2018 agreement with the union. This support has not been forthcoming so we are moving ahead following the completion of the dispute resolution process.”
The CWU was not available for comment but Royal Mail said: “It will make it easier for postmen and women to deliver their usual round as heavy, bulky items will no longer be in their mailbag.
“Change is essential if we want to remain one of the UK’s largest employers, with the best terms and conditions in our industry.
And, in a swipe at rival operators, the spokesman added: “Unlike many of our peers, who operate in the gig economy, over 99% of Royal Mail employees are on permanent contracts. Royal Mail wants to invest £1.8bn in a programme designed to grow its UK business. It will focus on customer service improvements, digital initiatives, network enhancements and new ways of working to deliver more productivity and efficiency.”
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