UK Royal Mail's future threatened by poor industrial relations – report

Article 1
The Royal Mail will be killed off by competition unless there is a
resolution of poor industrial relations between management and the
Communication Workers Union, according to an independent report
commissioned by the two parties. It said the recent history of industrial action has been "enormously
damaging" to Royal Mail and contracts worth 4 mln stg were cancelled
by large commercial customers as a result of a strike in May. Strikes and stoppages, combined with "dramatic" press coverage, mean
customers believe Royal Mail is unreliable, the report said. "As that perception grows, they will increasingly turn to the
competition – and more so as the scope of permitted competition
increases," it added. "We have no doubt that unless the problem of industrial action, and
the underlying state of industrial relations which it reflects, is
effectively resolved there is little hope for the future success of
Royal Mail." The review, chaired by former Labour Party general secretary Tom
Sawyer, said unless radically better reliability and efficiency is
achieved over the next few years, Royal Mail will lose business on a
"massive scale" with large job losses and no improvements in pay for
workers. Mail centre managers are criticised for an authoritarian approach to
the work force and not motivating employees as part of a widespread
"them and us culture". "There is a clear divide between managers and staff which is
exacerbated by the lack of trust and respect for each other," the
report said. The union is attacked for failing to control unofficial action,
especially when it contradicts agreements reached at a national
level between CWU officials and Royal Mail management. "There is a constant threat of industrial action – official or
unofficial – and when such action occurs it can be highly
intimidating," the report said. "Automatic opposition to management proposals seemed to us to be the
dominant attitude among union representatives." "There is no interest in resolving issues, and representatives are
happy to keep relations constantly destabilised." The report calls for an end to the "disastrous" level of industrial
action through a "strike free" period to attempt a change in the
employee relations culture through "partnership ways of working". Other recommendations include a joint statement from the CWU and
Royal Mail denouncing unofficial action and alternative ways of
resolving disputes. fp/shw.
Copyright 2001 AFX News.
Source: World Reporter (Trade Mark).AFX (UK), 27th July 2001

Article 2
LORD SAWYER DOES not appear to have been very impressed by what he
found at the Post Office. His report into the appalling industrial relations
that bedevil the business makes for chilling reading. This is an organisation in which disputes between management and
unions have sent the customer to the bottom of the priority list. How else
could it be that complaints over the risks from a dive-bombing seagull could
see postal deliveries to a London mews officially halted? The idea that the
mail must get through is certainly not the one that prevails here. The Post Office, now masquerading as Consignia, accounts for the bulk
of the days lost to industrial disputes in Britain. So perhaps the man who
presides over this dismal situation should reach for help. Has Neville Bain
read a book called The People Advantage? It explains how to find the best
people, motivate them and train them. In fact, the Post Office chairman co-wrote the book but he does not
appear to have had much success in making its theses work. While the senior
management in the organisation has seen some important changes, the failure to
deal with problems at shopfloor level continue. John Roberts, the chief
executive, joined the organisation in 1967 and took on his current role in
1995. He is all too familiar with the hostilities which regularly bring
sorting offices to a standstill but he has been unable to tackle them. Neville
Bain may have given him a copy of The People Advantage but it does not seem to
have helped. Bain has been chairman of the Post Office since 1998 and published
the tome, his third on management matters, the following year. With what now
looks like fine irony, he had the foreword written by Derek Wanless. "Read it
and think about what it means for you and everyone you lead," wrote Wanless,
who was about to be ousted from his leadership role at National Westminster
Bank. Bain clearly had not spotted that upheaval coming and he seems to
have been largely oblivious to the problems at the Post Office. But then he
appears to have a happy knack of seeing only the more positive aspects of
life. Hence the potted biography that accompanies his effort to secure
speaking engagements relates that "Under his leadership, Coats Viyella leapt
from 201st to 27th place in the 1995 Management Today list of Britain's Most
Admired Companies." How sensible not to dwell on the fact that in 1996 Coats profits
plummeted and that the company never recovered. Bain's departure accompanied
the 1996 figures. He said that he wanted to take on a variety of different
roles, and so he has. The Post Office, however, is the most high-profile. Despite the problems there, it seems he "is equally charismatic as a
speaker on topics such as leadership, change, globalisation and strategy". That is what the London Speaker Bureau believes, anyhow. Why they should believe that, who can tell. When you look at Lord
Sawyer's report, the need for leadership, change and strategy at the Post
Office seems glaringly clear. (c) Times Newspapers Ltd, 2001THE TIMES, 28th July 2001

Royal Mail on brink of collapse as bosses lose trust of workers
From THE TIMES, July 28th, 2001

Article 3
The Royal Mail is close to collapse because of a fundamental breakdown
in trust between managers and workers, a review of industrial relations in the
Post Office has found. Customers perceive the service as unreliable and are likely to turn
to private sector competitors, when they become available, if the service
continues to deteriorate, says the hard-hitting independent report produced by
Lord Sawyer, the former general secretary of the Labour Party. "We have no doubt that unless the problem of industrial action is
effectively resolved there is little hope for the future success of Royal
Mail," says the report, which calls for an immediate halt to all industrial
action. The review was published on a day when the Royal Mail was hit by the
latest in a damaging series of strikes. More than 1,000 workers held an
official 24-hour stoppage at a South London sorting plant. It will affect
postal deliveries today. Lord Sawyer's report -which reveals widespread bullying and a
fundamental breakdown of trust between the management and Royal Mail workers
-is likely to raise questions over whether the senior management at Consignia,
which runs the Post Office, is capable of reversing the escalating industrial
unrest within the Royal Mail. The report stops short of calling for top management to be replaced,
but it makes clear that while blame for the continuing industrial unrest lies
on both sides, Consignia needs a new approach to people management at every
level. "Mail centres are run like old-fashioned factories where people have
to put up their hand to go to the toilet. It's the sort of postwar management
style you might once have seen in a heavy engineering plant," says Lord
Sawyer, who examined industrial relations at seven mail centres. "This is a
business where trust, respect and confidence between the parties has
collapsed." He calls on the Communications Workers' Union to commit to a period
without strikes, in order to give an opportunity to rebuild confidence. He
also recommends the introduction of partnership boards at national and local
levels, in order to bring about a change in the culture of the Royal Mail. "Strikes are deeply damaging and disruptive to customers, to the
business and to employees. They make the business deeply vulnerable to
competitors," Lord Sawyer says. More than 62,000 working days were lost
because of strikes by postal workers in the past financial year. About 95 per
cent of the walkouts were unofficial. The strikes have hit the Post Office at a critical time, as the
Government is looking to introduce competition in postal services. Many
corporate customers have already transferred business to private sector
providers, because of the postal service's increasing unreliability in the
past year. Postal workers are still "very badly paid" the report finds, but the
main complaint from staff was how they were treated by managers. Billy Hayes, the general secretary of the Communications Workers'
Union, said that the report was as forthright as expected. "It seems like a
balanced report which I hope will prove fruitful in the longer term. The
discussions over the coming weeks will demonstrate how committed the Post
Office is to the partnership ideal," Mr Hayes said. Consignia said that it would need time to consider the detail of Lord
Sawyer's report, but that it would sit down with the CWU to discuss it. John
Roberts, chief executive, said: "We firmly believe that we can tackle the many
challenges ahead and that in the main we have a workforce who share the same
aims." (c) Times Newspapers Ltd, 2001THE TIMES, 28th July 2001

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