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Last Updated: Wednesday, 10 October 2007, 16:10 GMT 17:10 UK
Changing times for postal workers
By Nigel Pankhurst
BBC News

The Royal Mail and postal workers are locked in a dispute over changes to the way staff work.

One postman explains what is happening - and how they feel it will affect them.

Post box
The strikes have caused massive disruption to delivery services

Central to the current dispute - which has sparked two 48-hour strikes - are changes to the hours postal staff are being asked to work.

A 5am start has been put back an hour to 6am, and staff will have to work their full eight-hour shift.

The previous practice has been paid overtime on busy days - but early finishes once the day's job has been done when there is a lighter workload.

Royal Mail says the shake-up is needed to allow it to compete in the liberalised delivery business.

According to one postman the changes will deny staff the flexibility they need to get the job done.

John Housego works in Lincoln and has been with Royal Mail for 11 years.

'Tea time deliveries'

He said: "What we are concerned about is the way the job is changing. They want us to start later in the day but a lot of people gear their lives around early starts.

You could virtually be your own boss when you were out
John Housego

"If we stuck to coming in at an exact time, if we stuck to our meal breaks, if we didn't go out in our own cars, you just wouldn't be able to do the job in the time.

"It's only down to people being flexible and the way they work for their own benefit that the job gets done.

"People won't get finished and that will produce even more inefficiency, and the actual service to the customer will get worse. The public will have deliveries at tea time instead of breakfast time."

'Go home'

Mr Housego says the old system meant staff worked more efficiently.

"It's something we've been encouraged to do in the past. That was the agreement when we moved from two deliveries a day to one," he said.

"Part of the agreement was when you delivered all the mail you wouldn't have to come back to the sorting office, you could go home. You could virtually be your own boss when you were out."

Mr Housego says they were more likely to finish early - by up to about an hour - on Mondays and Tuesdays when the volume of mail tends to be lighter, but may well be working later from Wednesday to Friday.

And because there was an incentive to ensure an early finish, many postal workers opted to use their own cars instead of bikes in order to speed up the round, he said.

Difficulties adjusting

The fear among postal staff, says Mr Housego, is that they will be working longer hours but not have the benefit of finishing earlier on other days.

"Obviously the change in the hours, working an hour later, can impact on some people's lives," he said.

"It can make it difficult if you share a car with a partner and they use the car in the afternoons, it can affect childcare.

"You could be expected to work beyond your hours to finish the job, which might not suit some people.

"In years gone by it has been a benefit of the job that if you can accelerate things yourself you've done the job and you're finished for the day.

"Adjusting to the new times will be difficult for some people. People don't want to be in a situation where you're expected to do this day in, day out.

"They're going to keep taking more work on without considering who is going to deliver it.

"The consequence of that is that the postman doesn't want to be in the situation where every day he doesn't know when he's going to get home to his family."

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