Advice to Royal Mail members
Dear Unite members at Royal Mail
The Royal Mail Group (RMG) has made no secret of its intention to use other employees to minimise the impact of the upcoming CWU Industrial Action.
Your union, Unite, condemns this deliberate policy of setting one group of employees against another.
The CWU is duty bound to do everything in their power to support their members’ legitimate grievances over pay and Unite supports their endeavours to do so.
But our job is to protect you. Below you will find our advice on what the company intends to do and how to protect yourself at work.
All members should know that they have the full support of their union in their defence.
Unite is not party to this dispute so legally we cannot call upon members to take any form of action that would require a ballot to do so.
Royal Mail’s strike breaking plan is NOT backed by Unite
The plan seems to involve the establishing of approximately 300+ hubs to provide a postal service during the strike days rather than attempt to keep open all Delivery & Collections Offices.
The company wants these hubs to be staffed by Ordinary Postal grades not supporting the dispute and Unite managers. Senior Managers may use intimidatory tactics on our members, especially the trainee managers. Past experience suggests that the company will resort to threats.
The employer’s only aim is to minimise the impact of the strike action and win the dispute. In doing so, they can bring you into potential conflict with safe working laws.
So what can UNITE members do in such a situation?
The very first thing you need to be aware of is that your duties that must comply with Health & Safety regulations.
The employer must seek your compliance with their requests.
You must also be addressed in a manner that complies with dignity and respect.
You should not be told to get on with it or face reprisals.
Regardless of the situation the employer cannot avoid their responsibility under the law to ensure a safe working environment.
Ask to see the Risk Assessment. To establish whether what you are told to do does concur with the law, a Risk Assessment should have been carried out. And you have the right to ask for sight of it.
Royal Mail will not care about fuelling tensions in the workplace, but they are not above the law. Health and safety laws are there to protect you and your colleagues.
Insist upon written instructions work in unsafe situations. If they are not forthcoming, it could be that the person making the verbal instruction is potentially in breach of the law.
Talk to your union reps
If you are told to perform duties you are not trained to do, that sit outside of the scope of your normal job functionality, call your Unite rep.
Consider submitting grievances or as a group or an individual, or refuse to comply.
During the pandemic, colleagues undertook different tasks across the group. This was commonplace and was not the subject of criticism by anyone apart from you as members. But expect the employer to say that you have done this work in your current role and that in their view makes it a reasonable request. It is not. Again, ask for the instructions to be put in writing and for a copy of the Risk Assessment that shows you are safely able to undertake these tasks.
If you have been bullied or fear bullying as a consequence of a request, this may lead to deterioration of your health. Your employer is not a qualified medical person to make a judgement but may threaten you in advance that you will not be paid. If this happens contact your union official ASAP.
If you are being sent somewhere that you do not normally work to perform duties that are not part of my role, again voice your opposition and seek union assistance ASAP
Our advice is that you should attend work at your normal start time (unless you choose not to cross a picket line in which case contact your union rep immediately) and go home at your normal finish time. Take your breaks as you are entitled to do.
The employer will encourage you to work overtime possibly with financial incentives. Unite does not support this happening. And recognise that will generate significant ill-will from CWU employees. You do not have to work OT; it is a choice of your own but check your contract of employment.
In terms of moving office, if there is a fixed work base, this may be addressed with a flexibility clause and examples of custom and practice in the past.
Although a request to move office may be deemed reasonable in line with previous custom and practice, these requests must be reasonable in terms of distance, driving past three open units to work in a fourth may not be reasonable.
In all cases, members must ensure that they protect their own interests and act reasonably, although reserving the right to raise issues such as those set out above.
We will have a clear route to raise any issues experienced and this should be on a Health & Safety basis to our Area Safety representatives who will work proactively to help address concerns.
Also, our Divisional representatives will be available to raise issues regionally or up to national level.
SOME ESSENTIAL POINTS
- If you believe that you should not be performing this type of work it would be reasonable for you to detail why, to the requesting manager and if the instruction remains after you have done this, to consider raising a Grievance if you feel your concerns have not been addressed.
- You need to consider requesting formal assurances from the requesting manager, that should you, by error, make any mistakes while undertaking OPG work, no actions will be taken against you.
- RMG have a duty of care to protect you from risk and should prevent subjecting you to ‘oppressive and intimidating’ working environments as they are creating a ‘palpable risk of harm’. We must point out that there if there is a risk of ‘foreseeable risk of harm’ or if there is an omission to act’ to prevent detriment instructions could be deemed as unreasonable.
- A member might be asked to use their own car for business purposes, and it is reasonable to refer to a policy of insurance which might cover work related commuting (even between offices), but which might not cover the driver for direct work tasks, such as making deliveries. Members may need to check their insurance terms to be able to give a factual response in relation to this issue if it is relevant. Penalties in this situation are severe and we will issue further details shortly.
Please look out for further communications from your union.
National Lead Officer for Royal Mail, Parcelforce and Post Office and Your Unite CMA Reps