Royal Mail tracked staff to see how fast they worked, admits disgraced boss to MPs
Royal Mail boss Simon Thompson was forced to acknowledge that technology had been used to track workers after being dragged back to face a parliamentary committee.
Weeks after his original hearing caused uproar amongst staff Thompson, who was on this occasion ordered to swear under oath, told parliament that had been 16 occasions in the past three months where Postal Digital Assistants (PDA) data had been used in Royal Mail staff conduct cases.
The admission came after Labour MP Darren Jones read out testimonies from staff, in which one office manager claimed that PDA data is available to “all management levels” and is “used to discuss posting performance”.
“PDA devices are 100 per cent being used to discipline staff with workers being pulled into the office daily,” another testimony read.
Thompson, said: “Out of 3.6 million walks they’ve [postal workers] have done over the last three months. The only thing we can see is 16 conduct cases where data has actually been referenced. And the conduct cases are very severe and it is actually quite a rare occurrence.”
The boss also noted that Royal Mail had a “very sophisticated” internal system where workers can speak up about their grievances.
“If there are things that are happening, that’s making them [postal workers] uncomfortable, please let us know,” the chief said.
Thompson, was also once again grilled about alleged Royal Mail policy to prioritise parcels over letters – a decision which could be a breach of Universal Service Obligation standards.
Jones said that reports from staff said that managers were told over Christmas to “leave mail” and concentrate on tracked parcels “over anything else”.
“Our policy is absolutely clear that letters and parcels have exactly the same priority, ” the chief argued and claimed that staff are only encouraged to prioritise tracked items and parcels on days of industrial action.
The hearing comes as the Royal Mail staff have voted to continue with a campaign of industrial action in a bitter dispute over pay, jobs and conditions.
Last week, members of the Communication Workers Union said 96 per cent of workers were in favour of more strikes unless the deadlock is broken.
When drilled about worker strikes in parliament, Thompson said: “Some of the changes we are making are disrupting people’s working lives and we need to accept that.”
Ahead of the meeting today, a Communication Workers Union (CWU) spokesperson told City A.M that it is a “sad day” for Royal Mail.
“Simon Thompson has been hauled back in front of legislators over concerns he misled them during an integral part of the democratic process,” they said.
They continued:“In the interests of public accountability, we hope for a thorough scrutinising that can present a more realistic picture of Royal Mail than the one Thompson originally offered.”
Thompson was forced to return to answer questions to the committee after chair Darren Jones received evidence that his answers in his initial briefing in January were not”wholly correct.”
City A.M has approached Royal Mail for a comment.