Delivery and collection workers at Royal Mail have begun a walkout as part of nationwide strikes. The Communication Workers Union has organised the strikes after a dispute over pay, conditions and modernisation plans. Here Royal Mail workers give us their views on the situation.
The mood is very pessimistic at the moment. No one wants to go on strike, but I am doing it to make a national stand to protect our jobs. I work at the Leeds Mail centre and have worked for Royal Mail for nine years. There are probably 650 workers here and I expect less than 5% of them will go in on a strike day.
One of the main problems is the change to our working conditions. There are fewer workers because many have taken voluntary redundancy. We were given an extra payment for working flexibly, that means that if there is work left over at the end of your shift you have to finish it. The idea is you get this time back when it is quiet, but it doesn't really happen as we are always busy, so we think we are being asked to do extra work without extra pay.
We have already made cuts in our working hours. A lot of people realise the conditions are tough in the outside world at the moment. Many people would be willing to forgo a pay rise just to keep their jobs but it's annoying to see that managers still get their bonuses. Both sides need to talk to each other but they are equally stubborn.
Both sides are equally stubborn
Everyone knows Royal Mail is a dinosaur that needs to be dragged forward but the way the management is going about it is not working.
Leeds is a fully automated centre and we still can't get through all the work. Some of the letters have to go through the sorting machines three times when they should go through once. We do the "final mile" deliveries for TNT but we are losing money on it. We delay sorting the second class post every week as we can't cope with the amount of first class mail. I wonder how much you can keep cutting things without suffering a huge drop in service.
I'm a part-time post man and I think these problems could be solved without striking. The union has angered some staff who were were offered a buy-out of their contract to change from full-time contracts to part-time. Some people I know were interested and for those with long service it could have been a high sum, but the union intervened and the offer was withdrawn.
I'm not a union member but I think the union has done many post workers a huge disservice. The unions killed the coal industry, the car industry and the future doesn't look bright for Royal Mail.
These problems could be solved without striking
I understand why people are willing to strike. There are no real people managers at local level. Royal Mail hasn't moved with the times and it shows.
ANON, CAITHNESS, HIGHLANDS
My hours are currently 0830 to 1630. At the moment I am working from about 0740 to 1630 and not being paid overtime, but I start earlier because the workload is already too much. If I don't do the work I have been told I will be suspended.
I need a job and have never gone on strike. Do I keep working for free with the threat I may loose my job if I don't work? Or do I do what the union wishes and then see the Royal Mail collapse? This is a struggle for myself and my family. It's stressful.
I work in a remote area of the Scottish Highlands. There is little competition from DHL, TNT and others here. If Royal Mail is sold off customers here will suffer and many will lose daily deliveries. It will also be more expensive to send mail order deliveries to the remote areas. Already many high street named companies charge us extra delivery fees as they say we don't qualify for UK mainland delivery. People in Scotland need access to goods and services as much as people in Edinburgh or Essex and many businesses will lose their custom.
I voted to strike not because I want better pay or because I'm against modernisation. It is because of the unreasonable working conditions and workload. A common criticism we hear is "There are lots of unemployed people who would be happy to have a job at the moment. Why don't you just get on with it?" Well how many of those people want a job where you are expected to work flat out for an eight hour shift without a break? Then work an extra hour for free?
Everybody seems to have the impression that posties have it easy. Most posties I know get into work at least half hour early, they don't take the 40 minute lunch break they are entitled to and they use their own cars on delivery - at their own cost. Now they have to do extra work on top of their own duty and if that means working longer for free, that is what Royal Mail calls "flexibility".
If modernisation means getting a machine that can sort the same amount of mail as 100 postal workers then it's fair enough to expect redundancies. The fact is though, Royal Mail hasn't introduced those machines yet they expect us to pick up the slack. People need to walk a mile in my shoes (actually more like seven miles with a 16kg pouch on their back) before they pass judgement.