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Risk of postal strike in Inverness over staff mistreatment claims at Royal Mail

By Alasdair Fraser

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POSTAL workers in Inverness are being balloted on strike action after it was alleged disabled Royal Mail staff were mistreated.

The Communication Workers Union (CWU) is preparing a ballot on industrial action which would apply only to city members, but halt deliveries to almost every corner of the Highlands and Islands.

The union claims a senior manager has been breaking the law by systematically targetting disabled employees with workplace attendance reviews.

The motive, the union alleges, is to force those staff from their jobs.

If proven, this would be in breach of national agreements, Royal Mail’s own guidelines and the Equality Act.

In a letter to local members – seen by the Inverness Courier – CWU Highland branch secretary Robert McIlwraith says Royal Mail has yet to investigate the matter, more than six months after concerns were raised.

The union plans to notify Royal Mail of its intention to ballot more than 200 Inverness members on strike action in the next few days.

If members back industrial action, they would then be consulted by the union on when that should begin and how long it should last.

A strike by Inverness staff would hit processing, distribution and delivery functions, affecting the entire region.

Union representatives have compiled “a 16-page body of evidence” they say proves a senior manager has issued repeated instructions to lower grade managers to target disabled staff.

In the note to members, Mr McIlwraith said: “We have evidence of direct instructions on issuing attendance reviews from a senior manager in Highland to other managers.

“[These] we believe clearly breach national agreement with the CWU, Royal Mail’s own business standards and the law.”

Royal Mail’s attendance agreement with unions is designed to support employees in achieving consistently good levels of attendance.

For staff with disabilities, the Equality Act 2010 states absences for reasons relating to disability should be discounted from any attendance review process.

But Mr McIlwraith’s letter claims lower grade managers have been instructed reviews should apply to all staff, except those absent due to workplace accident or pregnancy.

The letter alleges the intention is to “manage individuals out of the business” using ill-health retirement which, Mr McIlwraith says, is only ever meant to be a last resort process.

A local CWU spokesman confirmed: “During this process, we always look to get resolution. Industrial action is the very worst case scenario for us.

“We don’t want our members to be out of pocket. We don’t want the public to be inconvenienced by not having mail delivered.

“It really is a frustration that, so many months on, Royal Mail is not taking this seriously.”

A Royal Mail spokeswoman, however, insisted a full investigation had been carried out into the attendance reviews issue.

“This investigation has now been completed and the outcome has been communicated to the relevant parties,” she said.

“Royal Mail takes its equality and diversity obligations seriously and is committed to a workplace free of discrimination and harassment, where our colleagues feel respected and able to thrive. We set clear guidance on how we expect our people to treat one another and we provide a range of channels for colleagues to escalate any concerns they have in co-operation with the Communication Workers Union.”

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