Simon Thompson, the Royal Mail CEO was hauled back to Parliament this Wednesday, and for good measure the Chairman Keith Williams and Operations Development Director Ricky McAulay were also called in. You can watch the entire session here.
Unusually, and because of the evasive answers given last time by the Royal Mail CEO, all three were required to take an oath swearing to tell the truth this time around.
PDA postie tracking data
Suddenly, Royal Mail agree that they do track posties and focus on what they call ‘Dwell time’ – whenever a postie isn’t moving. They say it’s not used in real time, but can be viewed after the event. There’s a good reason says Thompson for wanting route time information and that’s to try and narrow the 3 or 4 hour delivery window given to customer – competitors give perhaps an hour and many a time slot as small as 15 minutes.
In 16 cases the postie tracking has been used in ‘conduct’ cases, which the CEO said were differed from using PDA tracking data for performance disciplinary action.
To be “nice and clear” the Royal Mail CEO asserted he very much knows what a PDA is, but stated that when mentioned in the last session that he had no idea what a PVA is. Although the conversation made it pretty obvious he insisted he hadn’t made the connection to a PDA.
Presented with a slew of posters stating that parcels (Special Delivery and Tracked 24) must be prioritised over letters, the Royal Mail CEO suggested this was due to industrial action… that’s despite one of the posters clearly being dated the 16th of January 2023 and there have been no strikes so far this year.
Unfortunately having his words quoted back to him from last time, and in this session admitting during strikes and pandemics that parcels were prioritised, he said it ‘was a matter of context’ and he’d heard a different question in the first session. It fast became a very uncomfortable looking session for the Royal Mail CEO and other execs.
The Royal Mail Ops Director explained that due to the volume (size) of parcels, if they hadn’t prioritised them the entire network would be clogged up and they’d have to shut the virtual front door and stop accepting any more mail.
What wasn’t explained is why letters haven’t been delivered 6 days a week in January and February – months in which there have not been any strikes.
Policy is that full pay is paid in short sickness, but apparently this was not the case just before, during or after Industrial Action. Fit notes are required in such circumstances, but MPs pointed out that doctors won’t give sick notes (let alone appointments to get a fit note) for a couple of day’s illness.
After individual questions from MPs following up on the matters above, the session closed with both the Royal Mail CEO and the Chairman being asked how long the situation would be allowed to continue before they considered their positions. The answer was that getting an agreement to end the industrial dispute with the CWU would go a long way to resolving the issues.
The reality is that Royal Mail is in a mess, they want to reduce the USO to 5 days instead of 6 and to continue to grow the parcels business. This parliamentary session perhaps produced more frank answers than previously, possibly due to being forced to swear an oath at the beginning, but there were still a lot of “best recollection”, “as far as I know but I’d like to check as I’m under oath” and completely avoiding giving a straight “yes” or “no” answer, even when pressed hard by MPs.
Key takeaway, there’s a long way to go to get posties on board with starting work at lunch time, working evenings and weekends including Sundays, and the USO simply hasn’t been delivered for the past few years with every expectation of when their Q3 Quality of Service report comes out in a couple of weeks that it will make for very dismal reading.