Panorama: more than half of customers say Royal Mail fails to deliver parcels
Postal workers leaving “Sorry You Were Out” cards when people are in and failing to deliver parcels is a cause for concern says an industry watchdog. More than half of Royal Mail customers questioned insisted they were at home when cards were being slipped through their doors.
Janet Reed, a proof-reader from Coventry, tells Panorama: Can’t Deliver, Won’t Deliver on BBC One tonight: “They shoved the red card through the door and I’d go chasing after them and saying ’where is my parcel?’ I am here waiting for it to be delivered and their usual excuse was we didn’t bother putting it on the van because you’re never at home. Whereas, I’m always at home, I work from home.”
According to a new national ICM survey for industry watchdog Consumer Focus, 55% of those questioned had experienced this problem. Twenty-three per cent say it has happened three times or more.
Postal expert Robert Hammond, of Consumer Focus, tells the programme: “Clearly there’s either a failure in the service that they’re providing or alternatively it’s about the nature of their business and Royal Mail should be getting to the bottom of it.”
He adds: “About a quarter felt that the level of service they were getting from Royal Mail was either average or poor and that gives us cause for concern.”
One customer, Dr Andrew Curtis, research scientist, Bristol, tells Panorama: “I heard the letters drop through the postbox. I went to check immediately there was a card there saying ’we tried to deliver a parcel to you but unfortunately you weren’t in’. Obviously, I had been in – I’d been sat next to the front door. I hadn’t heard the door bell ring, hadn’t heard a knock so I followed the postman down the street.”
Panorama further reveals an internal Royal Mail memo acknowledging that parcels are being left in the office “without any attempt to deliver the packet” – warning staff the practice must stop.
Royal Mail Operations Director, Paul Tolhurst, says: “It shouldn’t be happening... if customers tell us that it’s happening, we will discuss that in the local office with the local postmen, and we will try and put that right. That is not what they should be doing, but of course it does happen, and I’m not saying that it doesn’t.”
Traditionally the busiest time, this Christmas isn’t bringing much cheer for the Royal Mail. Its letter business is down, there have been damaging strikes and it missed its most recent performance targets for delivering first and second class post. Panorama shows chronic, longstanding mistrust between the company’s management and staff is still holding back the delivery of a successful modern post service.
Union and managers can’t even agree on how much mail there really is to deliver. The figures are crucial in calculating how many employees are needed. The Communication Workers Union alleges that managers at the Royal Mail have been undercounting the amount of mail reaching local delivery offices, to justify further cutbacks.
A union representative from Kent tells reporter Vivian White the CWU carried out a sample count of mail in their area: “What they’re finding was quite alarming. Where Royal Mail was saying that we were getting in a tray of mail of about 155 items, we were actually getting an average of around 220 to 270 items.”
He claims it has a direct impact on customers with fewer staff having to do more work, meaning that postmen and women are setting off on their rounds later and later.
“We just won’t be able to provide the service that we’d like to provide small businesses and customers.”
Vivian White put the allegation that volume figures were being fabricated to Royal Mail Operations director Paul Tolhurst who said: “Well, I’m afraid I think that’s utter nonsense. There is a very extensive process that’s undertaken so that we get accurate traffic counts.”
He adds: “I can really understand how a delivery postman feels... probably they’re saying... look I used to deliver six bags of mail a day; I’m still delivering six bags of mail a day. The reality is - what they’re delivering is probably four or five more packages than they used to, and 50 less letters than they used to.”
Lord Sawyer, who led the 2001 review of industrial relations within Royal Mail, and found a culture of distrust and bullying, says little has changed now.
“The issue is about trust. These people don’t trust each other and, until that is addressed, and that is changed, we will continue to see a decline in the business based on unsatisfactory industrial relations.”
Despite the ongoing problems faced by the Royal Mail its half-yearly results have just been published and show a 4% rise in profits to £184m in the first six months of the year – despite falling revenues and the industrial action by some staff.
Panorama: Can’t Deliver Won’t Deliver, BBC One, 8.30 pm, Monday 14 December 2009.
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