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http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2010/mar/08/royal-mail-postal-strikes-deal

Royal Mail and union reach deal to end postal strikes
Workers to vote on pay rise and workplace changes after marathon talks in wake of last year’s walkouts

guardian.co.uk, Monday 8 March 2010 17.25 GMT

Postal workers on strike in St Helens last October. Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

A deal aimed at ending the long-running postal workers’ dispute was agreed today, including a 6.9% pay rise over three years.

The working week will be cut and postal workers will have greater job security, while agreeing to deliver a “transformation” of the business.

The Communication Workers Union said members would also receive lump sums of about £2,500 as well as weekly basic pay supplements and other improvements such as extra maternity and paternity pay.

The deal averts fresh strikes, although it is subject to a ballot of union members.

The Royal Mail and CWU have been holding peace talks for over two months following a spate of walkouts last year that led to millions of letters being delayed. Targets for the delivery of first and second class letters were missed in the bitter row over jobs, pay and services.

An 80-page agreement produced by the marathon talks includes a 2% pay rise in April followed by increases of 1.4% and 3.5% in subsequent years.

Workers will receive a lump sum payment of £400 on ratification of the agreement, followed by £1,000 linked to delivery of workplace changes, and further bonus payments.

Dave Ward, the union’s deputy general secretary, said: “It’s been a long time coming but this deal delivers on the major issues which postal workers have fought for. There’s a balance of pay and operational changes which will help offset job losses and ensure our members are fairly rewarded for change.

“We have always said that we couldn’t face away from change. The agreement recognises the reality of automation, competition and the financial challenges facing the company, but it does so in a way that puts the interests of CWU members at its heart.

“Both sides have committed to improving industrial relations and ensuring a more positive working relationship in the best interests of everyone at Royal Mail.

“There has been a lot of talk about the future of the company in relation to competition and the pension deficit. Now that we have reached this agreement it is clear that business transformation can be delivered. As a result we’re determined to address the pensions issue and establish whether the government will now finally accept its responsibilities, as the owner of the company, to find an acceptable solution.”

Roger Poole, who chaired the talks between the CWU and Royal Mail, said: “This agreement, if accepted by the members of the CWU, will secure the future of the business and allow the Royal Mail to become a profitable and successful enterprise. At the same time it will secure jobs in the long term and allow for employees to be properly rewarded.

“It is the stated intention of both parties that the agreement will be consistently deployed at local level with continuity of service in a way that means managerial executive action and industrial action become unnecessary.

“The new relationship agreement will start the long haul necessary to bring about this important change in relationships between Royal Mail and the CWU. Nobody pretends this will be easy but both sides have committed themselves in good faith to achieve a new start.

“I know that staff will want to give this agreement serious consideration and hope that this will lead to a positive outcome to the ballot.”

The union said that under the deal there will be opportunities to turn allowances into regular additions to basic pay, starting with an immediate payment of £20.60 a week for delivery staff, equivalent to a 5.9% pay increase, and £8 a week for mail centre staff, equivalent to 2.3%.

The working week will be cut by one hour to 39 hours for the vast majority of postal workers and there is an agreement to maintain at least 75% of workers as full-time with no forced move for any worker from full-time to part-time, or vice versa.

Maternity pay will increase from 18 to 26 weeks and paternity pay from one to two weeks, while Saturday will remain as a normal working day for deliveries, but with opportunity for people to have more Saturdays off if they want them.

The Royal Mail welcomed the deal and said the agreement, called Business Transformation 2010 and Beyond, meant the letters side of the business could continue with its “much-needed” £2bn modernisation, including the introduction of new automated machinery and delivery equipment and changes in the way staff worked.

Royal Mail chief executive Adam Crozier, who is leaving the company in April to join ITV, said: “This agreement is good for the business as it allows Royal Mail to get on with its modernisation, it’s a good and fair deal for our people, and it’s a good deal for our customers as it ensures stability over the next three years.

“It is a real credit to all those involved – both in the company and the union – and I’m grateful for all their hard work. I’m also grateful to Roger Poole for his help and support over the last few months.”

Mark Higson, managing director of Royal Mail Letters, said: “This three-year agreement is an important achievement for the letters business and its people and one which breaks new ground in our relationship with the CWU. I’d like to thank the teams in Royal Mail and the union who made it happen, as well as Roger Poole for his input and support.

“The agreement is crucially important in allowing Royal Mail to compete successfully in the highly competitive communications market and to help counter the effect of the ongoing decline in traditional mail volumes.

“It enables the business to rapidly complete the introduction of the latest-generation sorting technology and new delivery methods to improve efficiency.

“It also enables us to protect as many full-time jobs as possible while at the same time giving our people the best possible tools for the job.”

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/mar/10/strikes-unions-gordon-brown

Strikes are back, but unlikely to trouble Gordon Brown

Michael White
guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 10 March 2010 20.17 GMT

Strikes are back in the headlines, though rarely on the front pages as they once routinely were. Is Britain heading back to the future – or at least facing a general election in which union militancy is an issue?

The likely answer is neither, unless the giant Unite union’s bumpy negotiations with BA over cabin crew staff ends up ruining Easter air travel plans. Ditto Bob Crow’s RMT doing the same for Easter train trips – both just before Gordon Brown goes to Buckingham Palace to seek an election.

The BBC website reports all sorts of strikes, threatened and actual. The GM’s engineering staff at British Gas are ballotting over claims of “bullying and customer exploitation”. How many staff? 8,000 – and note that concern for customers. Bus drivers in Wales, university staff in Sussex, BBC staff worried about station closures – the raw statistics tell the story of declining union membership, power and militancy in an increasingly post-industrial state where individualism prevails over social solidarity.

When Margaret Thatcher won her first mandate to “deal with the unions” in 1979, 29.5m working days were lost to strikes, a figure that dwindled to 235,000 in 1997 when Tony Blair moved into No 10. The figures rise and fall: 759,000 in 2008, rapidly falling again in 2009 despite 177,000 postal workers walking out in their modernisation battle with Royal Mail. That dispute was quietly settled this week on what are reasonable terms for the communications union (CWU): 6.9% over three years in return for (touch wood) belatedly embracing more reforms. Yet 80,000 jobs have gone over the decade.

Every case is different. BA and Unite are both stroppy and the union’s aggro level is higher by virtue of an imminent election for general secretary. Unite may be pumping Ashcroftesque millions into Labour’s empty coffers, but Brown’s election comes second. Chances are the non-Labour RMT will cut a deal with the train operators after ritual argy-bargy.

Striking public sector workers from the militant and often volatile Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union, lobbying MPs again today, may be an easier target for the Tories. White collar staff, already facing higher pension contributions and older retirement (like everyone else), are resisting tougher redundancy terms. And they know that whoever wins the election is promising to slash thousands of jobs.

The decline of private pensions renders even modest public sector pensions vulnerable. Yet the prospect of a half-decent pension keeps older staff going, as David Cameron found last year when he promised to “sort out” public sector pensions and dipped in the polls.

The idea popularised by the Tory tabloids, that average public sector wages (not the plump cats whose pay Brown froze today) now run ahead of the private sector, fails to explain that its pool of unskilled workers pulls private sector averages down.

A serious blunder by unions, managements or politicians could make an election impact. But not even the Tories seem keen and BA cabin crews are said to read the Daily Mail. Even militancy is more complicated than it was.

Our Royal Mail film wasn’t second class

Allegations that Dispatches has a pro-privatisation agenda or is unfairly picking on the postal service are wide of the mark.

Roy Mayall claimed on Cif yesterday that Channel 4’s Dispatches on the Royal Mail was a “barrage of negativity” that most postal workers would recognise elements of. Sadly, this being my third investigation into the state of the Royal Mail in six years, it was something I recognised all too well – and, judging by the response to the programme, our viewers did too.

In fact, appalling industrial relations, lax security, poor training, late mail, mishandling of packages, theft and laziness were evident in all three of the films we have made since we first started this investigation back in 2004. Mayall’s issue seems to be that we failed to provide a coherent analysis of why the industry is in crisis. Perhaps he’d gone off to make a cup of tea when we devoted a section to the state of industrial relations within the company as witnessed by our undercover reporters. Or perhaps he just chose to ignore it. Either way, our investigation clearly demonstrated that industrial relations are one of the biggest problems Royal Mail faces – something both management and the union are responsible for.

He goes on to claim all of our experts have a privatisation agenda. In fact, all of our contributors commented on the state of Royal Mail, not privatisation. We also interviewed Simon Hughes, a Liberal Democrat MP who supports keeping the Royal Mail in public ownership.

Regardless of who does and who does not want privatisation, one thing all of our contributors shared was a desire to see Royal Mail succeed. They need it to succeed. We all need it to succeed.

Mayall also complains about the lack of genuine postal workers’ voices in the film. Is he suggesting the employees we featured didn’t actually work at Royal Mail? That the hundreds of posties we encountered over the six years of investigation somehow weren’t real? As for the documentary not representing a “broad sample of offices in the UK” we clearly stated in the film we didn’t choose the delivery offices but were sent to them by the employment agencies we approached for work. In addition, over the course of three films we have worked undercover elsewhere in the country – not just London. And, by its very nature, undercover footage is full of genuine voices, employees talking and behaving uninfluenced by the presence of a camera crew.

Mayall concludes with the damning suggestion that we “favour” private companies and if we spent time undercover in any company we would come up with similar material.

Here he entirely misses the point. It is precisely because the Royal Mail is not a private company that this investigation is so significant. Royal Mail is tasked with delivering to every one of the 28m business and home addresses in the country and, because we effectively own it, we have a right to know what is going on inside it. Private companies are a sideshow – this isn’t about them, it is about the Royal Mail.

And, by the way Roy, if you have any information regarding these other private companies you think we favour then please feel free to get in touch – Dispatches is always looking for a new story.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/feb/11/royal-mail-dispatches-postal-service

Channel 4’s Royal Mail witch hunt

Monday’s Dispatches programme was an exercise in one-sided journalism. Where was the coherent analysis?

The opening lines of Monday evening’s Dispatches programme on Channel 4 set the tone for the next 40 minutes. “Once Royal Mail was your friend,” it said. “Not any more.”

We were then subjected to a barrage of negativity about the culture of the Royal Mail. Rude managers. Incompetent staff. People not knowing where they were going. Inadequate training. Lax security. Mishandled packages. Late mail. Bad industrial relations. Theft and laziness.

Most posties would recognise elements of this. We know from daily experience that ours is an industry in crisis, but what the programme entirely failed to do was to offer any coherent analysis of why this should be happening.

There was no trouble working out what the Dispatches team’s agenda might be.

During the course of the programme we were offered the views of three commentators. There was Richard Hooper, author of a report that provided the basis for Peter Mandelson’s suggestion last year that the Royal Mail be part-privatised. There was Dr Madsen Pirie of the Adam Smith Institute, which last year published an article suggesting that the universal delivery obligation should be abandoned. And then there was Jonathan DeCarteret who, in the words of the programme, “helps companies switch from Royal Mail to rival operators”.

All three of the “experts”, in other words, had a commitment to privatisation of mail services.

Where were the voices from the other side of the debate? Where were the voices of genuine postal workers?

Is there theft in the Royal Mail? Of course there is. It is a responsible job. We handle people’s property. It would be a surprise if some people didn’t take advantage of this. But this is precisely why postal workers are against the on-going casualisation of the job, which is part of the Royal Mail’s modernisation agenda that aims to cut labour costs by employing part-time and casual staff.

A full-time postal worker with an assigned round is much less likely to steal; or when he does, he is easy to catch. It is much harder to discover a thief among a string of casuals and agency workers who move from job to job, from office to office.

Jonathan DeCarteret’s introduction went on to add some more revealing words: “[DeCarteret’s] clients still rely on Royal Mail’s delivery network,” the narrator said.

And there, in that passing line, lies the problem.

Royal Mail has rivals who rely on the Royal Mail to deliver their letters for them. Royal Mail does the delivery – but the rivals take the profit. Royal Mail has a universal delivery obligation, but the rivals can pick and choose which of the most profitable bits they take. They do this, but the Royal Mail supplements them at the rate of 2p for every letter it delivers on their behalf. No wonder postal workers are unhappy.

It took at least two months of filming to come up with this programme. Most of the action took place around two delivery offices in south London. It wasn’t exactly a broad sample of offices in the UK. But I suspect that if covert filming is extensive enough within any organisation it would come up with similar material.

You wonder when Dispatches is going to carry out an investigation into the private mail companies it so obviously favours

The Mass Observation Archive specialises in material about everyday life in Britain. It contains papers generated by the original Mass Observation social research organisation (1937 to early 1950s), and newer material collected continuously since 1981. The Archive is in the care of the University of Sussex and is housed in the Library in Special Collections.

Mass-Observation
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Mass-Observation was a United Kingdom social research organization founded in 1937. Their work ended in the mid 1960s but was revived in 1981. The Archive is housed at the University of Sussex.

Mass-Observation aimed to record everyday life in Britain through a panel of around 500 untrained volunteer observers who either maintained diaries or replied to open-ended questionnaires. They also paid investigators to anonymously record people’s conversation and behaviour at work, on the street and at various public occasions including public meetings and sporting and religious events.

Genesis

The creators of the Mass-Observation project were anthropologist Tom Harrisson, poet Charles Madge and film-maker Humphrey Jennings. Collaborators included the critic William Empson, the photographer Humphrey Spender, the collagist Julian Trevelyan, and the painters William Coldstream and Graham Bell. Run on a shoestring budget with money from their own pockets and the occasional philanthropic contribution or book advance, the project relied most on its network of volunteer correspondents.
Mass-Observation began after King Edward VIII’s abdication in 1936 to marry divorcée Wallis Simpson. Dissatisfied with the pronouncements of the newspapers as to the public mood, the project’s founders initiated a nationwide effort to document the feelings of the populace about the historical event by collecting anecdotes, overheard comments, and “man-in-the-street” interviews on and around the Coronation of George VI.
“May the Twelfth: Mass-Observation Day-Surveys 1937 by over two hundred observers” was published in book form. The result tended to subvert the Government’s efforts at image-making. The principal editors were Humphrey Jennings and Charles Madge, with the help of T. O. Beachcroft, Julian Blackburn, William Empson, Stuart Legg and Kathleen Raine. The 1987 reprint contains an Afterword by Professor David Pocock, director of the Tom Harrisson Mass-Observation Archive.
In August 1939 Mass-Observation invited members of the public to record and send them a day to day account of their lives in the form of a diary. No special instruction were given to these diarists so they vary greatly in their style, content and length. (Source Mass Observation diaries. An introduction. The Mass Observation Archive 1991 P.1). 480 people responded to this invitation and their diaries are now held in the Mass Observation Archive (Source Nella Last’s Peace. Profile Books 2008 p 303).
[edit]Impact

During the Second World War, the Mass-Observation research was occasionally influential in shaping British public policy. In particular, their study of saving habits were used by John Maynard Keynes to successfully argue for tax policy changes. The war also led to a few cases of Mass-Observation doing research on commission for government authorities trying to shape recruiting and war propaganda.
[edit]Criticism

Mass-Observation has been criticised by some as an invasion of privacy. Participants were not only reporting on their own lives; they often commented on their neighbours and friends as well. Such an atmosphere of surveillance was in keeping with the rising culture of espionage, which dominated the Second World War, although it should be noted that Mass-Observation was an independent, not a government, effort aimed at education rather than manipulation of the public.
Mass-Observation had set out to turn the tools of anthropology used to study foreign cultures on Britain’s; to be “The Science of Us.” Criticism of the scientific validity focusing on the experiment parameters began fairly early, continued throughout its existence, and was a key element in its eventual demise. Because of the self-selecting nature of the observers, they did not represent a scientifically balanced cross-section of British society as a modern public opinion poll would. Although geographically and occupationally diverse, the participants tended to be middle-class, educated, literate, and left of centre.
[edit]Decline and End

Following the war, and the departure of project founders Harrisson, Madge, and Jennings, research began to focus on the commercial habits of the country[1] rather than the broader cultural research that characterized its first decade. This turn towards market research was formalized in 1949 when the project was incorporated as a private firm and, under new management, became registered as a market research limited company, Mass Observation (UK) Limited. Eventually the firm was merged with the advertising agency J.Walter Thompson’s UK research agency BMRB, to form MRB International, followed by full merger in the early 1990s.

I believe that i accomplished the tasks of the project by producing a 3 minute documentary and diary of events. The things i learnt from the task include practicing interview skills, learning different types of cameras, and that making a documentary of a current issue is difficult. The difficulties include establishing contacts in the Royal Mail, catching the protests as they happen, and the changing state of the issue regarding negotiations etc. The improvements i would have made to the project would be that it was originally meant to be a political piece, revealing new light on the strikes which the media don’t seem to portray very well. Another thing i wold change would be more assertive in finding out the tasks guidelines as many of my colleagues produced films that were not appropriate with style etc.

To be honest the Helmdon project didn’t seem to interest me at first as i lived in a village most of my life and nothing was there that interested me, possibly people who were not accustomed to a village would be more. I was more interested in current issues and news stories as one of my aspirations in to be a photojournalist, so therefore the Royal Mail strike issue appealed to me greatly. Once i switched to the Helmdon project i couldn’t really find much research as there was only one website about the village and the initial contact was opened by Karen. Possibly it would have been better to choose a village or place that no one was familiar to, in order to experience a true research meeting people scenario. Never the less, i did learn and experience new filmmaking skills as part of building a profile. Furthermore, the class never seemed to be very organised in the direction of the project, which created discrepancies in final edits. I am pleased with my edit of the interview as there are some of the original interesting political points in there, though i can possibly develop my research on this project for future plans.

Today we meet to view the documentaries for critical and thematic issues.

A reoccurring issue was that some of the titles and music was not part of the Mass Observation project. Fortunately, my film didn’t have any music or stylistic intervening by my behalf, as i wanted to keep it focussed on the content.

Many of the groups or individuals produced stylistic productions that were not necessary to the Mass Observation project. A mass Observation project works on the basis of a map with slices of life and people.  This was not really made clear in the initial brief, so caused a lot of confusion.

I don’t need to edit my piece for the Mass project though will need to place it on a map or others maps. I also need to produce research on Mass Observation and publish on You Tube.

Firstly I watched my sequence and decided to cut some of the clips to fit the 3 minute resume. It also made it more tighter and coherent.

I tidied up the sequence with dissolve and fade in transitions making it run smother. I cound’t decide on the end as i wanted to leave the film with a significant visual and content of the interview.

After trial and error, i placed the clip with William saying he couldn’t talk about some political things, and that he and the royal mail will have to change. This is a prominent speech and important to the film. For visual stimulus i used Sai’s panning of the Royal Mail van through the window which creates a strange wave effect adding to the allusive myth of the interview ending.

We will present the rough cuts to the class in thursday…

I am using Final Cut Pro to edit my piece, as I used to use it and is well regarded in the industry.

Firstly, I loaded in the interview into the bin, then cut the unimportant footage out. The interview will be the foundation of the 3 minute documentary, with clips of the postman working his round.

After importing the clips into the sequence, the footage went over 8 minutes, so it taken a while to crop the clips to be consice yet coherent.

It taken me a while to get used to Final Cut, as i haven’t used it in a while, and remembering the keyboard shortcuts can save a lot of time.

One of the issues I had with the non interview footage was that it was shakey as predicted, so i couldnt use some of the scenes. Though bering in mind they were only needed for cutaways it wasn’t too difficult to find adequte footage.

Post Interview Analysis

During playback I seen my interview from an audiences perspective, which educated my experience of the actual event.

I was trying to be quite relxed with William, to hopefully get a mirrored response, therefore receive better answers, though as a result of this i was in more of a conversation. The problem with this is that my voice was in the recording, with questions and unfortunatly grunts of sounds of agreements etc.  It would have been eaiser for me to stay quiet as it seems more professional in the edit. Yasir suggested that I show a clip of myself and William to make myself more present in dcumentary, therefore making my voice more coherrent for continuity.

When i did ask questions i wish i didnt ramble too much and be more direct, though i’m accounting this to nerves and as my most prominant questions, he couldn’t answer so i had to think quickly.