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Last Updated: Thursday, 5 August, 2004, 09:42 GMT 10:42 UK
Healthy mail staff offered prizes
Royal Mail says 10,000 staff are off work at any time
Postal workers who do not take any sick leave for the next six months are to go into a prize draw for a new car, as Royal Mail tries to combat absenteeism.

The company will have 34 new Ford Focus cars to give away, as well as holiday vouchers and weekend breaks.

Royal Mail says 10,000 out of 170,000 operational staff are off work at any one time - costing millions annually.

Postal union the CWU said rather than "gimmicks," the company should tackle root causes such as poor conditions.

10,000 out of 170,000 staff absent at any given time
The cars and holidays will cost the company at least 540,000
Average Royal Mail worker has 12 sick days a year, five more than the national average

The scheme runs from the beginning of August until 31 January next year.

If postal workers are not off sick in that period their names will automatically be entered into the draw for one of the cars.

A similar incentive scheme will be offered to managers but no date has been fixed.

Royal Mail says absenteeism is hampering efforts to improve business and hopes the idea will pay for itself, even though the cars alone will cost around 400,000.

Royal Mail have got this all the wrong way around
Paul, Essex

CWU deputy leader Dave Ward said it was not against people being rewarded for their efforts, but Royal Mail needed to get to the root of the problem of sickness and absenteeism.

Part of the problem, he said, was low morale, and poor pay and conditions.

The BBC's Richard Bilton
"The Royal Mail's absenteeism is way above the average"

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27 May 04  |  Business

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