Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

More Pay? They'll Have to Work Harder Than This; AS POSTAL WORKERS CONSIDER INDUSTRIAL ACTION OVER LONDON WEIGHTING

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

More Pay? They'll Have to Work Harder Than This; AS POSTAL WORKERS CONSIDER INDUSTRIAL ACTION OVER LONDON WEIGHTING

Article excerpt

Byline: HUMFREY HUNTER

LONDON'S postal workers have taken a major step towards going on strike.

In a consultative ballot, members of the Communication Workers Union in the capital have voted overwhelmingly in favour of industrial action over pay.

They are demanding a flat London weighting of [pounds sterling]4,000 a year to replace the present [pounds sterling]3,000 allowance.

A formal ballot will follow, raising the prospect of a summer of industrial strife.

But how tough do postal workers really have it? Humfrey Hunter spent a fortnight undercover at two post offices to find out. He discovered that, while most staff do a good job, there are concerns over the hours they put in - and the care taken with the mail that we entrust to them

I AM standing in the main sorting room of Islington post office and it is mid-afternoon. This vast, untidy "engine room" is divided into benches and pigeonholes almost as far as the eye can see.

In a corner, a mailbag lies unattended. Inside it are hundreds of appeal letters from Oxfam. I examine the postal dates: the letters have lain here since last summer, unsorted and undelivered.

Each contains a pen from Oxfam and an appeal for cash. The postman I am with - one of our training tutors - is clearly surprised at the forgotten mailbag.

But it doesn't stop him joking about the pens: "I think we'll have those."

The Royal Mail claims they are surplus from a mailshot; Oxfam insists there shouldn't be a surplus and wants the letters back. "We expected those letters to be delivered," said a spokesman.

It is my second day as a postman.

Pretending to be an unemployed exstudent, I enrolled after contacting Royal Mail's central and north London headquarters. After an aptitude test I was called for an interview at the Almeida Street post office in Islington.

Within a couple of days of fairly basic training at Almeida Street - part of which included instructions on how to pick up a mailbag - I was delivering letters from another post office in East Finchley. My depot handled up to 45,000 letters a day, employing 40 postal workers covering 30 delivery routes and 300 streets.

One of the first things I discovered was the incredibly small number of hours those who deliver the post actually work. Despite what the Royal Mail claims, I found that most finish for the day by 11am after a 5.30am start, even though they are paid until 1.30pm.

One colleague told me: "The job's become a bit of a joke. It's the easy life, really. We pretty much work half-days. Saturdays aren't even that bad.

You can be home and in bed again by 8.30am if you get your skates on."

I am being paid [pounds sterling]270 a week (an average [pounds sterling]14,000 a year before tax) after only a few days' training. …

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