The Unsorting Office
It’s been a bad few weeks at our delivery office. First of all Vince Cable announced that the Royal Mail was going to be privatised. Then, at one of our weekly ‘Work Time Listening and Learning’ meetings, the line manager announced that our delivery office is going to close. We are going to have to move to the main sorting office in the next town, seven or eight miles away. He couldn’t say when this was going to happen. All he could say was that ‘plans are underway’.
We didn’t have time to ask him any questions about it, however, as two ‘lead planners’ from the region had come to tell us about the review of working methods they are undertaking in our office.
First up, our bikes are going to be scrapped and replaced by lightweight trolleys and shared vans: two posties to a van, working an enlarged round between them.
Working hours are changing too. Nine Byzantine schemes are being suggested for us to choose from, varying from nine-day fortnights – four people to work three routes, working eight hours, forty minutes a day – to a four-day week in a three-week rotation, with a nine-hour, forty-five minute day, using three people to cover two deliveries. Er…?
They will also measure the speed at which we slot the mail into our frames before setting out on our rounds, giving us targets to make us do it faster.
The planners were quick to point out that the main purpose of the review was to take man-hours out of the office, and to make rounds bigger. In other words, the new, shared rounds will be larger than two old rounds, meaning more work for posties, and less time to do it in.
One of my colleagues said: ‘Surely if the office is going to move, then journey times will have to be added in and we’re going to have to go through this all over again?’
Yes, the planner said. Once we move there will be another revision.
‘What about privatisation?’ I said. ‘We are going to be privatised soon and TNT are going to move in and will want to do things their way.’
‘I can’t comment on privatisation,’ the planner said.
Part of the revision process will involve one-to-one meetings between the planners and postal workers. The new rounds are being drawn up using a piece of computer software called Pegasus/Geo-route, which depicts a two-dimensional world. The aim of the meetings is to factor in the terrain and other hazards. Every hill, every footpath, every short cut, every gate, every stairwell, every block of flats, every back door entrance is to be recorded. This is valuable information. It is being collected now, at public expense, but it will be inherited by whichever private company takes over. I wonder if they will be charged for that?