Archive for the ‘Royal Mail’ Category

Annoying drivers

November 29, 2009

Ok, this is a little bit of a rant, and a bit of an open letter to any of those drivers I come across on a daily basis whilst out delivering the mail

  • When my van is parked at the side of the road, with it’s hazard lights flashing, the back doors open and me getting something from the back, there’s a pretty good chance I’m not actually going anywhere! It’s no use driving right up behind me before deciding to take avoiding action! Or beeping your horn and waving at me to get me to move!
  • Again when I’m parked up with the lights flashing and emptying a pillar box, it’s not my fault if someone coming the other way decides to stop alongside me a blocks the road! Again, beeping your horn and waving at me is not going to make me go any faster!
  • When I’m coming out of a blind exit from a drive, you can probably see me before I can see you. That’s why I pull out very slowly until I can actually see the road. And when I’ve stopped with the front of the vehicle sticking out into the road it’s because that’s where I have to be to see YOU! It’s no good waving a fist or glaring at me for getting in your way as you swerve round me. You could very easily stop and let me out.
  • And what do my indicators mean? Well when I put the left one on and brake it means I’m either going to turn left or stop. It’s quite simple, so why do you beep at me when I stop???
  • And the right indictor, usually followed by me braking and sometimes stopping means I want to turn right! (I see you’re getting the hang of this now!). If you’re driving towards me and can see that I want to turn right into a driveway, is it really going to impede you that much by letting me turn?
  • And finally, if you approaching a set of RED traffic lights, and I’m trying to cross the road on foot, why oh why can you not just stop and let me cross? You can only go a few more yards anyway before you have to stop!

Sorry, all those things happened to me today, and in fact most of them happen most days. Right, rant over.

Deck chairs

November 10, 2009

So everything is back to normal at Royal Mail. Today we had our first staff meeting since the strikes began. And it was back to the normal rubbish that we get told every week.

Well almost. This time we were told that we’re actually getting two new members of staff – yippee!! We’ve only got three vacancies! But at least two of them are being filled, if you count replacing two 40hr full time staff with two 30hrs part time staff replacing them.

So the situation is this: we currently have three duties with no member of staff allocated due to the vacancies. We’re getting two members of staff, which in my reckoning means we still have one unfilled duty. So how come the manager said she’s going to create a new duty for one of the new people? Either that’s an extra duty on top of what we already have (which we really do need!) or she’s just going to re-arrange the current vacancies.

We’ve been told we’re not going to get any extra staff in the foreseeable future so the rules out the extra duty. So it’s re-arranging the current duties. Which means we’re still not going to get all the work down without resorting to overtime. Situation normal then.

The trouble with Royal Mail’s management technique is that it only looks at problems in isolation, never the whole picture. If a duty is too long then a bit will be taken of and given to another duty with thinking about if the other duty can be done. It’s a case of “we’ll deal with this problem first and worry about the consequences later”

It’s like being a deckhand on the Titanic, we keep moving the deckchairs around even though the ship is sinking.

The strikes are off!!!

November 6, 2009

The good news of today is that the strikes which have hit Royal Mail over the past few weeks have been suspended! Yay!

The reasons behind the strikes are multifarious but in essence come down to the management trying to force through changes to the organisation which the Union and the staff in general disagree with.

The news sources kept reporting it that pay was involved. It wasn’t. Well no exactly, it’s only mention was that in future pay and benefits should in principle be linked to any efficiency savings made. So we wanted management to just consider us getting something out of all the changes, just consider it, but they’re weren’t willing to even do that.

We accept changes are needed. We accept that job numbers will be cut. What don’t accept is the way the changes were being brought in. After the previous strikes there was an agreement that all changes would be agreed at a local level. However at best all that has happened is “discussions” have  taken place, but the result of these discussions had been decided before they took place. And at worst, changes have been brought in by executive action: this is what is going to happen, like or lump it.

From the public’s point of view, Royal Mail is a public service. From the management’s, the government’s point of views it’s a business trying to make a profit. From the regulator’s point of view is an obstacle in the way of the competitors. These three views cannot be easily aligned. Something has to give, and it’s usually the public service element.

Today I worked 2.5hrs overtime just to clear all my workload. I could have said that I couldn’t do the overtime. But then the work wouldn’t have been delivered and it would still be there tomorrow. If we cannot do the work now,m how can we be expected to do it with less staff? And for the record, we are one of the offices that have access to the new all-singing-all-dancing sorting machines. Which don’t save us anywhere near as much time as we were told they would.

But at least for the moment, the strikes have been called to allow more detailed and meaningful talks to take place. It was interesting to hear on the news that Union would this time to negotiate with the management, whilst the management said they would push ahead with their plan of change. So they can’t even agree on what’s going to happen now. Doesn’t look to good does it? Let’s all cross our fingers and hope shall we?

 

[This post was delayed due to the fact that after getting home from work and eating, I fell asleep before having a chance to publish it!]

Disorganisation and weirdness

December 9, 2008

Well I was just going to blog about the disorganisation that occurred this morning, but I’ve been pressured into explaining the weirdness that I mentioned this morning on twitter and facebook.

Well let’s start with the disorganisation. At Christmas the postmen and women in my Delivery Office have our hours changed, and we have to start an hour earlier than normal – 5am instead of 6am. This is actually an hours overtime which we have to do.

Now for a bit of background info. We normally have two lorries  each morning bringing us mail to be sorted/delivered. These arrive at about 5am and 6.40am. For the Christmas “pressure period”, ie the three weeks leading up to Christmas, this schedule is changed. We get deliveries from the Gatwick Mail Centre at 4am, 5.10am, 6.30am and 6.50am (approx). We also send 2 vans down to Hove Delivery Office (where additional sorting is carried out), to collect additional mail at 5am and 6.360am. Most of the letters are also pre-sorted by machine into the correct walk (mech-mail), and the remaining is done by hand in the office (manual).

So yesterday, we arrived at 5am to find that the revised lorry schedule wasn’t due to start until today! And there was no extra sorting at Hove.

Then today, the first lorry arrived on time with 5 yorks of mail* and the second arrive with 3 yorks on. Not much mail really. The first van went down to Hove and eventually located 1 york of mail for us – most of the staff didn’t know we were even going down there to collect it!

I had sorted and prepared the mail for my duty by 5.45. And then I waited. And waited. And waited.

The 6.30am lorry never arrived and the van that went to Hove at 6.30 returned empty. Finally at 6.55 the next lorry arrived with 9 yorks on board. This lorry contained our first load of mech-mail, but there wasn’t much of it. Most of the mail had to be sorted by hand.

I was finally ready to leave the office to start my delivery at 9.00am, ideally I should be going out the door at 8.20am – any later and I end up doing overtime.

So we had staff waiting around with no work to do for along period this morning – in fact I waited almost 1.15hrs! I ended up doing an extra 15mins at the end of my duty just so I could complete it. So all of the time I spent doing nothing was in effect paid as overtime! No one told us that the third lorry wasn’t being sent, and we sent a second van to Hove when there was nothing to collect. Obviously Royal Mail have never heard of the telephone.

Now for the “weirdness”. As I was bundling up the mail for my round I noticed something strange. There was one whole type of mail missing. Ok, time for a bit more background information.

We have four types of mail normally:

1st class,

2nd class,

DSA (down stream access) – the mail that we deliver for our competitors, such as TNT, UK Mail and several others

Mailsort3 – this is a business product and can be easily identified by the “M” where a stamp would normally be.

Well today, there was very little (in fact almost none) mailsort3 amongst what I had. I asked my colleagues, and they too had very little of it. This was weird. There is normally a large amount of it. It consists of things like utility bills and bank/credit card statements. This meant that there was not much mail to be delivered – mostly Christmas cards. In fact, whereas the industrial estate I go to normally has severally hundred letters, I could in fact carry it all in one hand today. Several firms that have large amounts of mail had none today.

So I think the reason we were standing around this morning with nothing to do was because we were “missing” a large proportion of our mail. The question is “Why?” It’s possibly that there was very little mailsort3 for us, but that would be very unusual. Or it could be that it was all left up at the mail centre or even sent to the wrong delivery office. But I’m sure neither of those could have happened. I have my suspicion but I’ll leave it to you to make up your own mind. But I wouldn’t be at all surprised if tomorrow isn’t a very busy day.

 

*A “york” is the roll-cage/pallet which we use to load lorries. It’s like a standard pallet but with sides and wheels and built just for us.

The tale of the broken gear box

December 3, 2008

Yesterday my work van went into the workshop for it’s scheduled 6 month service and I was given a pile of junk a spare van for the day.

Well I had almost completed my round when I found myself with a gearbox that only had 3rd and 4th gears – the linkage had broken and it was possible to move the gearstick to any position I wanted! If it went forward I had 4th gear, if I pulled it back I had 3rd, and somewhere in the middle was neutral. There was no reverse. This made driving fun, and so I nursed it back to the office to borrow a colleagues van to complete my round.
Fun gearbox! on 12seconds.tv

Now this is a fairly common fault, and is probably the fourth time it’s occurred to a van whilst I have been driving it. No, it’s not my driving! The workshop have admitted it’s a common faulty on this particular van.

So this morning, the workshop (Royal Mail Vehicle Services our in-house muppets mechanics*) sent one man in a van out to fix the problem. He was with us five minutes at the most, and left saying: “It’s fixed but it’ll probably go again. It needs replacing” We reckoned he’d fixed it a cable tie or an elastic band.

So why wasn’t the broken linkage replaced and so fixed properly? Probably to save money. If they can keep it on the road without replacing the part in question, then obviously they’ve saved money (labour and the parts).

As my van was still in the workshop (how long does it take to do a 6 month service?) I again had the “repaired” spare van.

Six mile and just under two hours later, it went again. So I phoned the office and requested the workshop come out to me. I couldn’t get back this time as I was parked up and couldn’t turn round as I had no reverse gear.

An hour and twenty minutes later out comes a mechanic in my van!! Before I had even transferred the load across he had again fixed the broken van and said it would get him back to workshop so they could replace the broken part. Needless to say, I was now late for the rest of my round and ended up having a colleague come and assist, and we still had to overtime to complete it.

So by not taking the van back to the workshop for repairs when the mechanic first came out, the whole episode actually cost us more money: a second trip out for a mechanic (time that could have been spent working on vehicles in the workshop) plus the cost of the overtime required to complete the delivery. This is the kind of short-sighted penny-pinching that is becoming all too common in Royal Mail.

*If you’re lucky I’ll tell you some more stories about our wonderful workshop another day. They really are first class (muppets)!

Addresses

November 27, 2008

You often hear about letters getting lost in the post. But it’s vey rare you hear about the letters that we manage to deliver despite the “address” that’s written on them.

Take these examples, although the names have been changed for privacy, they are all based on addresses that I have recently seen (and none had postcodes).

1. Mr Smith. Land opisit (Sic) Queens Head Pub, 800 yds up A376.

2. Mr Bloggs, House with green door, just past second lamp post after garage, Worthing Road

3. Mrs Smith, Famous Singer, Sussex.

And yes, I managed to deliver them all.

Post Bag #2

November 24, 2008

Time for another question about the Royal Mail then: “Why do you keep delivering letters for people who don’t live here?” This normally applies to former occupants of a house, but also occasionally, random names unconnected with the place.

The thing to remember here is that we don’t deliver letters to individuals; we deliver to an address. Officially it doesn’t matter what name is on the letter, providing the address is correct, we deliver it (yes I know we sometimes deliver to the wrong address, but I’m not dealing with that at the moment). Unless I have written instructions from my manager to the contrary, I have to deliver all mail for an address, even if I know the addressee has moved.

This also means that letters that have addresses on them that do not exist, should be returned to sender because we can’t deliver them if the address doesn’t exist.

Now I know that there are postman who will endeavour to deliver an incorrectly addressed letter to the right place, and there are also some who will filter out mail addressed to people who do not live there. But this is unofficially and could result in disciplinary action being taken against the postman. Why? Because we do not know who has arranged with you to have mail sent to your address. The previous occupant could easily have arranged for you to forward their mail on to them, or even call and collect it. A neighbour could have asked to have something sent to your address some the other occupants of their house do not find out about it. People have mail sent to different addresses for all kinds of reasons and we will not necessarily not know about it. So we have to deliver it as addressed.

So if you have told your postman that you don’t want any more of Mrs Jones’s mail delivered, and they agree to filter it out, then once again, thank them because they’re doing something against the rules just to make the customer happy. And if he does keep delivering Mrs Jones’s mail, don’t have a go at him, he’s just doing his job.

Barcodes, mistakes and managers

November 15, 2008

On Monday, when I go in to work, I’m expecting to be called up to the Manager’s office to have my ear bent. Why? Because I emptied a post box one minute early. The fact is that I didn’t empty it early but I can’t prove that.

Those postman like myself who empty the post boxes carry handheld bar code readers, and inside each box there is a barcode. Now the idea is that when we empty the box, we also zap the barcode. This records the time that we emptied the box. Simple. The reason we do this is so that Royal Mail can show PostComm, our regulator, that we are emptying all the boxes, and that we are not emptying them early. The scanner has a clock which shows up when we press the “scan” button.

Nothing too complicated there then.

Except when we make a mistake. If we accidentally scan the bar code before the scheduled collection time there is no easy way to correct the mistake. There is no “cancel” or “delete” button, and we cannot rescan the barcode. Once it’s scanned, that’s it. And it’s quite easy to make a mistake: we can be distracted by a member of the public talking to us; we could be in a hurry because it’s raining; we may not have noticed (or forgotten) that the clock on the reader is not correct. Or as happened to me today, I pressed the “scan” button to read the time, and it happened to be pointing straight at the barcode. And scanned it. One minute early. Oh bugger. But by the time I’d emptied the box, it was actually the scheduled time anyway. So I wasn’t really early, just that the I had zapped it early.

Through trial and error, we have discovered that after scanning a second barcode, it is possible to rescan the first barcode. And this second scan is the one which is reported. But as most of post boxes are quite spread out, it’s not possible to go to another box, scan and empty it and then go back and rescan the one we did incorrectly. But we could easily carry a spare barcode with us which would be purely used as an “ignore last scan” barcode. This would then allow us to rescan the barcode, and all would be right with the world.

But we don’t have a spare barcode. We’ve asked for one, but we’re were told we couldn’t have one. So instead the occasional mistake is made, a failure is recorded and a postman gets reprimanded for making a mistake. A mistake which could quite easily have been rectified at the time.

So now I’m looking forward to another a happy little chat with the boss.

Post Bag #1

November 13, 2008

As some of you know, I work as a postman for Royal Mail. Recently I have had to field a few questions on twitter about Royal Mail, and so I thought I’d use this blog to dispel a few myths and maybe solve some of your problems. I can’t help with specific problems such as “where’s my letter?”, but I may be able to help with general questions. And any comments I make are purely my own views, I may work for Royal Mail, but I don’t represent them here. My comments have not been endorsed by them. And in case you’re concerned, I won’t say anything here that I wouldn’t say to my manager or any one else connected with the company, including the chairman.

And so to the first question…

 

Why did my postman leave a docket? Why didn’t he leave the [insert item] with a neighbour/under the flower pot/in the shed or sign for it himself?

Now this is a question we regularly get asked. Trust me, we don’t take stuff back to the Delivery Office for fun or just to annoy you (honest!). It means we have to carrying it longer, and believe me, we want to get rid of as much stuff from our bags as quickly as we can.

So why do we do it? Because we have to.

We regularly have to sign a piece of paper entitled “Safeguarding the Mail” to say we acknowledge the fact that we are responsible for all mail that we take out on delivery until it has been delivered through the letter box or into your grubby little hand, or returned to the Delivery Office. If we leave an item with a neighbour or in the shed, and it goes missing, we are responsible for it.

Likewise, if we were to either sign for a item or get a neighbour to sign for it, you could easily say it was never delivered. And because the signature wouldn’t be yours, we wouldn’t have any proof that it was delivered.

So by not doing these things, the postman is actually covering his own back in case something goes wrong. Conversely, if he did it, and got found out, his job would be at risk. And yes, postmen and women have lost their jobs for this.

We know it’s not always convenient for you to travel to the Delivery Office to collect an item, but remember, we don’t do it because we want to annoy you. We do it because we have to.

And if by some chance you have a postman who is prepared to risk his job by helping you out in this way, thank him. And definitely don’t tell his boss!