Post Office accounts for two-thirds of industrial action in Britain

Labour relations at the Post Office are 'nothing short of a disaster', with the organisation accounting for an amazing two-thirds of all industrial action in Britain, according to ministers. MPs believe its strike record could be the biggest barrier to it exploiting the commercial freedom that was yesterday promised by the Government. Barrie Clement, Labour Editor, reports.

The Post Office has quietly abandoned its plan to introduce team-working for delivery and sorting staff, the issue at the centre of eight damaging 24-hour strikes. Despite a demand by management that employees' leaders should discuss the issue as part of the settlement of the dispute, no consensus has emerged and after 18 months the talks have run into the sand.

Meanwhile, management has been involved in scores of industrial skirmishes with the Communication Workers' Union at a local level, although management argues that the atmosphere has improved considerably in recent months.

In a report published yesterday the all-party Commons Trade and Industry Committee repeated a call for the Post Office to remain in public hands and reiterated its view that it should enjoy more scope to raise money and compete in new markets. The document, however, adds: "A demonstrable and sustained improvement in industrial relations is required for the Post Office to be able to enjoy the anticipated benefits of the commercial freedom it seeks."

Industrial relations at the organisation were described as "poor" and the committee said that the problems should be addressed with urgency. "There is mutual suspicion and frustration at the inability to reach an agreement on the matters which led to the very damaging 1996 industrial action," the report said.

A spokesman for the Post Office insisted that there had been a "dramatic improvement" in labour relations and that industrial action at the organisation now accounted for about one-fifth of all days lost through strikes. He said official figures showed that in 1996-97, some 811,000 days had been lost, almost exclusively at the Royal Mail and predominantly because of the national 24-hour stoppages. The year before the figure was 63,000 and in 1994-95 it was 38,000. In the nine months to the end of December only 1,761 days had been lost, he said.

The spokesman confirmed that negotiations over team-working had come to a halt, but said the Post Office kept in contact with the union. Management was still keen to discuss new working methods and productivity with the CWU. "We hope we will be talking soon," he said.

Having taken it to task over the management of employees, the report ventured that the Post Office could now "reasonably look forward" to obtaining some of the commercial freedom it was seeking. The committee expressed surprise that the Department of Trade and Industry took until last November to complete its consultation exercise on the future of the business. Speedy progress was needed, the report said.

The monopoly on delivering letters should not be undermined, but the system of financial controls should be modernised.

Ian McCartney, trade minister, said he wanted to give the Post Office fresh opportunities. "The Government's review aims to give the business greater commercial freedom, to meet the demands of customers in the rapidly developing and increasingly competitive international postal market."

It is understood, however, that the Government will insist on continued 100 per cent ownership by the state. That means that joint ventures with other companies would be problematical because they would automatically be underwritten by the Government and potentially in breach of European competition law.

The Treasury is also keen that the business remains within the Public Sector Borrowing Requirement and that it should not be granted an ability to raise money in private capital markets.

Mr McCartney added that the Government remained committed to a universal postal service and the nationwide network of post offices. Both the Post Office and the union welcomed the general thrust of the Commons document. John Roberts, chief executive of the Post Office, said that a positive decision on the future of the organisation was "more critical" every day.

He said that while he would welcome the immediate extension to the Post Office of short term concessions, there could be no substitute for radical structural reform.

The chief executive said that five foreign post offices had set up sales offices within 20 miles of central London in the past five years. That was an indication of the "relentless pressure" of increasing competition.

Derek Hodgson, joint general secretary of the union, said he welcomed the committee's report.

"I am delighted that the committee have taken a positive and radical approach which we endorse in so many areas. It gives me great hope for the DTI review," he said.

News
people Emma Watson addresses celebrity nude photo leak
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
News
Boris Johnson may be manoeuvring to succeed David Cameron
i100
News
peopleHis band Survivor was due to resume touring this month
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
News
In this photo illustration a school student eats a hamburger as part of his lunch which was brought from a fast food shop near his school, on October 5, 2005 in London, England. The British government has announced plans to remove junk food from school lunches. From September 2006, food that is high in fat, sugar or salt will be banned from meals and removed from vending machines in schools across England. The move comes in response to a campaign by celebrity TV chef Jamie Oliver to improve school meals.
science
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
fashionModel of the moment shoots for first time with catwalk veteran
Life and Style
fashionPart of 'best-selling' Demeter scent range
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
i100
Sport
Tom Cleverley
footballLoan move comes 17 hours after close of transfer window
Sport
Alexis Sanchez, Radamel Falcao, Diego Costa and Mario Balotelli
footballRadamel Falcao and Diego Costa head record £835m influx
Life and Style
fashionAngelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Web Developer/UI Developer (HTML5, CSS3,Jquery) London

£55000 - £65000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A Global Financial Service Organi...

Data Scientist (SQL, PHP, RSPSS, CPLEX, SARS, AI) - London

£60000 - £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A prestigious leading professiona...

C# Web Developer (C#, MS Dynamics CRM, SQL, SQl Server) London

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A Global Financial Service Organi...

Oracle developer- (Oracle, PL/SQL, UNIX/LINUX) - Trade- London

£50000 - £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: One of the global leaders in prov...

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering