Royal Mail referred to regulator over ‘systemic letter delivery failure’ | Business news

The company denies it misled MPs as a parliamentary committee releases a damning report on the performance of Royal Mail and its management.

By means of James Sillars, business reporter @SkyNewsBiz

Friday, March 17, 2023 02:19, UK

Royal Mail has been referred to the sector’s regulator by a committee of MPs who have accused the company of failing to deliver letters six days a week and question whether management is negligent.

The Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) committee stated that the company had “systematically failed to comply” with the universal service obligation for letters, finding that it had instead prioritized more lucrative parcels.

It said it had asked Ofcom, which has the power to impose sanctions, to open an enforcement investigation following the release of its report on activities at Royal mail.

The commission also targeted CEO Simon Thompson, who was recalled testify a second time during his investigation after an outcry among mailmen about the veracity of his original testimony.

The report accused him of being “not entirely accurate” in the answers he gave them about using technology to track and discipline employees, following numerous complaints about the issue raised by staff.

“Royal Mail denied having any knowledge of tracking postal workers using technology and said evidence of this practice, and of managers disciplining postal workers using such data, was due to non-compliance with Royal Mail policy” , said the committee.

The MPs noted that they “did not believe such widespread mistakes could happen without direct or indirect management approval” and asked the company’s board to review the situation on the grounds of “negligence” if they were unaware of the practices.

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The report also called on the information commissioner to check the legal basis for collecting and using this data.

The parliamentary inquiry came against the backdrop of a bitter labor dispute between 112,000 members of the Communication Workers’ Union (CWU) at Royal Mail over pay and the company’s modernization plans.

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Limited progress has been made in talks to stave off further strikes that crippled deliveries ahead of the company’s main Christmas period, further straining Mr Thompson.

Commission chair Darren Jones said: “I find it hard to believe that such widespread breaches of company policy and legal obligations are due to a national network of rogue employees conspiring against Royal Mail management.

“We were inundated with evidence from postal workers disputing the accuracy of Royal Mail CEO Simon Thompson’s replies.

Frankly, the shortcomings in company policy that Mr Thompson has admitted can only be due to an unacceptable level of incompetence or an unacceptable level of ignorance about what is happening at Royal Mail.

“Hiding behind the pandemic as a driver of Royal Mail failures is not enough.”

However, MPs expressed concern at the company’s growing losses – £200 million in strikes alone so far.

A Royal Mail spokesperson said: “Royal Mail prides itself on providing universal service, and our policy is clear that parcels and letters should be treated with equal importance.

“We have notified the committee that we will review the consistent application of our letter and parcel delivery policies across the company.

“We will share our findings with the committee and Ofcom. We have asked the committee to share the material they have received and reiterate our request that it do so as soon as possible so that it can help inform that assessment.

“Royal Mail responded in detail to the committee’s questions – in person and by correspondence – about the company’s performance, finances and services.

“We reject the suggestion that Royal Mail misled the BEIS Select Committee in that process.”

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