The Unsorting Office

Roy Mayall

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?


  • 13 October 2010 at 3:42pm
    Geoff Roberts says:
    There's a good piece about Google in the New Yorker this week, in which its giganticism and its monopoly position are nicely taken off. My guess is that the software for Geo-Route comes from Google-Earth or its subsidiaries. Maybe Google will take over the GPO and deliver virtual mail. You and your colleagues have my sympathy - when will it come to industrial action?

    • 14 October 2010 at 1:35pm
      Roy Mayall says: @ Geoff Roberts
      I don't think think that Pegasus Geo-Route has anything to do with Google for once. The Royal Mail has its own programme. As for strike action, I suspect that staff are too worn-out after the sell-out earlier this year. Most of these changes have union approval anyway.

    • 15 October 2010 at 7:14pm
      Geoff Roberts says: @ Roy Mayall
      I don't think you have in the way of alternatives, have you? Unless you all want to go and work for TNT. For what it's worth, it all sounds very much like megacapitalism in the 21st. century from all over the world. Not that it's any consolation, our postman now turns up at about 4 pm with the morning mail.

  • 13 October 2010 at 6:24pm
    Joe Morison says:
    What gets me (and correct me if i'm wrong about this) is that the government is trying to make this sound progressive by saying that it's going to be a John Lewis type arrangement. This would be great if true, but in John Lewis the staff own all the company; here, the government are suggesting the staff will own 10% - the clichés of fig leaves and thrown bones come to mind.

    • 14 October 2010 at 3:17am
      Jason Kennedy says: @ Joe Morison
      Joe. They keep calling everything 'progressive' - somebody somewhere has decided that this rather empty word has a generally positive resonance with the electorate.

      By the same token, the last Labour manifesto, with its foreword by Gordon Brown, declared itself 'radical'...

    • 14 October 2010 at 4:20am
      Chunter says: @ Joe Morison
      The proposed 'John Lewis' arrangement is for the Post Office, not the Royal Mail.

    • 14 October 2010 at 1:32pm
      Roy Mayall says: @ Chunter
      That's right: Vince Cable promised a "John Lewis style partnership" but has since changed his mind. It's going to be full privatisation, with 10% of the shares held by the staff.

  • 14 October 2010 at 5:12pm
    A.J.P. Crown says:
    Roy, is your middle initial an L?

    • 14 October 2010 at 5:17pm
      Roy Mayall says: @ A.J.P. Crown
      It is! How did you guess? It stands for Leopold.

    • 15 October 2010 at 7:40pm
      A.J.P. Crown says: @ Roy Mayall
      Just a wild guess. My daughter had a wonderful rooster she called Leopold, I've liked the name ever since. The best of luck to you.

  • 14 October 2010 at 7:34pm
    dave1 says:
    "It is! How did you guess? It stands for Leopold."

    you're being a bit naughty there, aren't you Roy?

    I distinctly remember this coming up once before, and you then said your middle name was Leroy. Which I much prefer.

    Anyway, on a more serious note, this 10% / mutualisation nonsense is clearly rubbish, isn't it? Apart from being a pitiful sop, it can only be genuine if whatever the percentage of shares is (and it should be a majority) they cannot be sold on to anyone other than a worker in that company, and even then not in amounts that would give any individual a significant voting bloc (i.e much more than 20%).

    It was similar rubbish on a much larger scale that happened after the break-up of the USSR -- they proudly announced that they were giving the companies to the workers, by giving them shares. They just neglected to pay them any wages for six months or more, so the shares were quickly sold off to a few individuals who were in the right positions and who had enough dosh.

    That's how we ended up with Roman Abramovich.

    I'm not saying Royal Mail workers will be in quite such an extreme position, but the principle is the same and the effect will be the same. (and 10% individual shareholding is sweet FA in terms of control)

    • 14 October 2010 at 11:52pm
      Roy Mayall says: @ dave1
      The John Lewis partnership version of that is that you only own a share while a member of the company. You cannot sell the share on. 10% is obviously just a sop. The union are against it. Trouble is they shot their bolt last year with a strike that led to a pay cut and worse conditions, so no one is going to listen to the union any more. Sweet FA is about all any of us can expect.

  • 14 October 2010 at 8:58pm
    Richard Posner says:
    I offer my condolences from "across the pond". Is that anachronism still in use?
    It is very sad but even more frightening to see the ostensible leaders of the world's sovereign nations falling into lock-step with the absolutely malevolent agenda of american global privatisation. Does no one see the goal of the banker plutocracy? Before very long, every square inch of Earth and every vital service required to deliver its resources will be the "private property" of a small group of totalitarians.
    Does everyone dismiss the "New World Order" as some silly joke or mad "conspiracy theory"? It isn't those who warn of its imminent arrival that coined the phrase. The very psychopaths who machinate to bring it into being have named it and proclaimed its coming, publicly, on more than several occasions.
    "We are on the verge of a global transformation. All we need is the right major crisis and the nations will accept the New World Order."
    David Rockefeller
    The supranational sovereignty of an intellectual elite and world bankers is surely preferable to the national auto-determination practiced in past centuries."
    David Rockefeller, Bilderberg Meeting, June 1991 Baden, Germany
    "In the next century, nations as we know it [sic] will be obsolete; all states will recognize a single, global authority. National sovereignty wasn't such a great idea after all."
    Strobe Talbot, President Clinton's Deputy Secretary of State, Time Magazine, July 20th, l992
    Since 9/11/2001, there has been a concerted, growing and ever accelerating effort to bludgeon every "advanced" nation on the planet into the ranks of the third world. America is very nearly there in all but name.
    The cancer of totalitarianism has festered in the body of the human race since before Plato praised it in writing. Each time it has erupted, to consume nations, it has been bigger, stronger and more virulent. It has ever sought complete hegemonic domination of the "known" world and has periodically achieved that goal. The logical extrapolation, from all available empirical data regarding this cycle of empire, is that, eventually, one such will arise, however briefly, that will seize control of the entire Earth, all its vital resources and its populations.
    For all I know, this could be a necessary step in the evolution of our species; like learning to crawl before walking. However, it could also be the proverbial last straw, the final, fatal error in a failed evolutionary experiment.
    Personally, I have no problem with the elimination of sovereign nations. If we were witnessing the dissolution of national boundaries and the long overdue unification of the human family into a single civilisation of equality, Peace and harmony, I, for one, would be overcome with joy. Instead, what we are seeing is nation states being replaced by a global state which is ruled by a plutocratic oligarchy.
    I say in all sincerity that, unless something extraordinary is waiting in the wings to hear the call of "deus ex machina", the human race is about to enter a new dark age that could well last through this millennium.
    There is no way to Peace. Peace is the Way.

  • 15 October 2010 at 1:22am
    pixi says:
    What's the answer then folks?

  • 15 October 2010 at 1:38am
    pixi says:
    There are many great minds in this forum ,surely we can come up with a new idea that doesn't neccasarily involve unions or negative thinking! I love my Posties!

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