Reading some of the news reports about the national agreement signed between the CWU and the Royal Mail last week, you’d be forgiven for thinking that we’d secured the deal of the century. Under the headline ‘Pay rise and bonuses for striking postmen’, the Daily Express said: ‘Royal Mail postal workers who caused havoc with a series of strikes before Christmas are to get a pay rise, shorter hours and bonuses of up to £2500.’ Or try this headline from thisismoney.co.uk (owned by the Daily Mail): ‘Royal Mail strikers get more for less work.’
These reports read as if they’re based not on the actual agreement, but on the press releases handed out by the CWU and the Royal Mail. Any reading of the text of the agreement itself soon reveals the truth: it is not a pay rise, it is a pay cut. Yes, there is 6.9 per cent over three years. That’s 2.3 per cent per year, which is lower than inflation. And taking into account the fact that unaddressed door-to-door mail (otherwise known as junk mail) will be incorporated into our work load, and that the early shift allowance will cease, most postal workers will be between £10 and £30 a week worse off.
What’s more, the cap will be lifted on the number of door-to-door items we deliver, and the length of the walk will be increased to take account of the extra volume this will create. So what was that about ‘less work’ again? The agreement cuts the working week by one hour, but increases the workload. So it’s not less work, it’s more work: just less time to do it in.
As for the bonuses, these are part of the ColleagueShare scheme set up in 2007. All they’ve done is move them forward to incorporate them into the agreement.
In other words, most of what most of the newspapers have said about this agreement is entirely wrong. As a postman, if I fail to deliver your mail, it’s called ‘deliberate withholding of the mail’ and is not only a sackable offence, it’s a criminal offence too. But when journalists fail to deliver the truth, that’s just part of the normal routine, and no one is ever held to account for it.