The Communication Workers Union (CWU) has accused Royal Mail of “a significant breach of policy” as a row over the treatment of sacked and suspended postal workers on the Wirral continues.
The row is over the controversial suspension of 11 postal workers at the Prenton Delivery Office in June later followed by the firing of six on August 11. The union is supporting appeals of these decisions.
It is understood that the action was taken by Royal Mail over workers taking breaks in two Wirral pubs – the Caernarvon Castle in Oxton and the Swan in Prenton– as well as issues with mail delays.
The suspensions, the equivalent of about a quarter of the workforce in Prenton, caused major disruption in the surrounding area with people missing their post for weeks as well as hospital appointments.
Three of the original 11 suspended posties were reinstated, another was given a penalty and reinstated, while another outcome is unknown. Three staff recently resigned but only one resignation is said to be directly linked to the dispute. Six of the original 11 have been dismissed.
Issues were first raised about reported workers visiting the Caernarvon Castle earlier this year, although a witness said they only saw the posties drinking tea and coffee. One source said the issue had been resolved but it is still linked to the wider dispute.
Postal workers then reportedly moved to the car park at the Swan Inn over which two warnings are said to have been issued. Though both pubs are on a list permitted by Royal Mail for breaks, disagreement remains over whether they were on everyone’s delivery route.
Royal Mail has been heavily criticised by Birkenhead’s MP Mick Whitley over the dispute as well as Oxton’s Liberal Democrat councillors who have started a petition calling for workers to be immediately reinstated
Royal Mail said dismissals were “in line with the clear rules and regulations.”
It said, “As a responsible employer we always investigate any incidents where the behaviour of our employees is alleged to have fallen below the standards expected.”
Oxton councillor Stuart Kelly said, “The outpouring of sympathy and support from people for the plight of the Prenton Posties on social media and in the comments is not unexpected. People remember when they were pandemic ‘key workers’ and appreciate their efforts getting the post through in all conditions and in all weathers.
“That sympathy will now surely turn to anger at news that Royal Main management have carried out a mass sacking of the postal workers involved.”
He added, “It’s still not too late for this terrible injustice to be put right, reinstate those workers and restore the Prenton post to normal, we want our posties back.”
Wirral’s council leader Paul Stuart has also intervened on the matter. He said, “Dismissing staff is an extreme measure, and I am sure their union representatives will fully support their members through this difficult time.
“If the staff have been wrongly dismissed, their employer must reinstate them immediately, issue a full public apology, and ensure they are fully reimbursed for any lost salary.”
The CWU is currently appealing the dismissals and said it cannot comment on individual cases. However Mark Walsh, head of CWU’s Greater Mersey branch, said, “It is our belief that there has been a significant breach of policy and of the conduct agreement between the CWU and Royal Mail.”
Mr Walsh added, “The branch is currently exchanging correspondence with our national headquarters to ensure we explore all options available to support our colleagues in their time of need, with the aim being their reinstatement to their previous roles in Prenton delivery office and cleared of all allegations.
“Most of the dismissed postmen have worked for Royal Mail for over 20 years, with one colleague working for the business for over 44 years, all of them with exemplary service and clear conduct records.
“We are aware of online petitions calling for the reinstatement of our dismissed colleagues, which we would encourage and welcome everyone to support whatever your political affiliation or standing.”
The union said it was willing to work quickly with the Royal Mail to find a solution to the ongoing dispute, resolve ongoing problems with deliveries and “get them back to the standard the public expect and deserve.”