Shift cuts spark post delivery fears

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The Independent Online

The Royal Mail is looking to axe night shifts across the country, prompting fears that deliveries will suffer as result.

According to an insider at the state-controlled postal group, managers have been asked to submit proposals about cutting costs with an emphasis on expensive night shifts. These will then be implemented within the next few weeks.

The insider said a sorting office in Scotland, which uses just a small number of staff on a few night shifts, was being used as an example. However, there were concerns that offices in big cities and the south of England, which serve far larger populations, would be able to reduce night shifts only at the expense of the service.

"People can see that cracks are going to appear," said the source. "Asking people to suddenly start working harder within a month is just not going to happen. It all seems a bit rushed."

However, a senior source dismissed concerns that deliveries would be hit. "At the moment the service is the best it has been, so we're hardly going to change that," he said.

Instead, the source claimed the strategy represented just one of a number of continuing attempts by the Royal Mail to cut costs and improve productivity.

"All the time there are programmes going on to get productivity going," he added. "There is still lots of cost to come out and we're still not as efficient as we could be."

Although now turning in a profit, the Royal Mail - which lost its monopoly at the start of this year - has a £4bn pension deficit and needs to invest around £2bn to update its sorting systems. It is already looking at saving cash by cutting jobs across the board and is in talks with unions.

Earlier this year, the regulator Postcomm fined it a record £11.7m for failings in the service.

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