Eleven postal workers in Wirral were reportedly suspended from their jobs for having a cup of tea at a local pub in a move that has caused major disruption to postal services.
It is understood that three of the postal workers – based at the Prenton Delivery Office – have now been reinstated, but the controversial action has led to major disruption to postal services in the Oxton and Prenton areas.
Some residents have been reportedly receiving their post more than a week late with one Oxton local saying they had missed two hospital appointments due to mail not being delivered.
Following complaints from local residents, local politicians including Birkenhead’s MP Mick Whitley have slammed Royal Mail management for their handling of the situation. The company declined to comment on internal affairs but apologised to those experiencing delays.
The suspension action was reportedly taken after postal workers were found to have been taking their work breaks at the Caernarvon Castle pub though regular Ian Harris said he only ever saw them drinking tea and coffee there.
Mr Harris said the posties were given a pot of coffee and a pot of tea and allowed to use the toilet facilities and “freshen up,” adding: “There wasn’t any alcohol whatsoever used and we the regulars liked to see them.”
Mick Whitley, MP for Birkenhead, said he was told by the Communication Workers Union (CWU) that 11 postal workers had been suspended but three had now been reinstated. He said the hearings for the remaining eight had taken place and they are awaiting an outcome.
He said, “I wrote to the local management on July 20 and requested a response to my concerns and clarity on what steps they were taking to improve both industrial relations and delivery services. As of today they haven’t replied.”
He added, “The union stressed they were open to discussions with management to resolve the disciplinary issues and I strongly urge the management to engage constructively with the CWU as the only way to restore normal service and improve industrial relations.
“However, I would urge the CWU to be vigilant as the management across Royal Mail have a very recent record of attacking the terms and conditions of its staff and provoking disputes.”
Oxton councillor Stuart Kelly said, “These suspensions have meant that existing staff are unable to cope with delivering the postal service from the Prenton depot resulting in many Oxton residents receiving important letters, including hospital appointments, late or not at all.”
“The information I have is that postmen and women get a 40-minute break during the day which they took in the Caernarvon Castle and later the Swan. They could use the car park in the day to park up and sit and have a cup of tea together.”
He said he was told new management didn’t like this and therefore suspended staff. Cllr Kelly added, “This sort of macho management from Royal Mail is unacceptable. These workers work hard in all weathers to deliver the post, they are entitled to a cup of tea and a break. I have been in contact with the Royal Mail head office for an explanation, so far without response.”
“Whatever their internal management problems, people in Oxton and Prenton want a proper post service and it is essential that Royal Mail focus on providing that.”
Local people have been experiencing delays with their mail as a result of the suspensions.
Kevin Donovan, 77 from Birkenhead, said he first noticed there was an issue after his post had been irregular for several weeks, adding, “I am waiting for a health examination and worry that the appointment letter is in a mountain of undelivered mail in Prenton.”
A Royal Mail spokesperson said, “We are sorry to residents who have experienced delays. Improving quality of service is our top priority and we are committed to restoring service levels to where our customers expect them to be.
“Efforts at the local delivery office are ongoing to improve this level of service. This includes additional recruitment and the addition of agency staff. Mail continues to be delivered, and anyone who has mail and does not receive it on the day they expect will always be prioritised the following day.
“Across our business, we have plans in place to drive service levels. We hope and expect to see further progress in the coming months.”
The CWU declined to comment. The Swan and Caernarvon Castle were also approached for comment.