In the ballot result announcement on Tuesday, Dave Ward and Terry Pullinger reported on growing anger in the workforce over lack of management action to protect staff against coronavirus. Royal Mail have done little to provide gloves, hand sanitiser or sympathy despite the vulnerability of staff who work among the public every day.

Bosses’ inaction saves shareholders money but means the virus is more likely to spread to us as workers, to our families, and to the public.

Royal Mail has announced that it will pay new starters full sick pay rather than the statutory sick pay they usually get in the first year of employment, but otherwise claim they are following government guidelines, warts and all. That means we pay the price for corona to protect their budgets, just like other workers across Britain are being forced to pay for the corona crisis.

Besides not providing safety equipment like sanitiser, management have done nothing so far to reorganise the work process to ensure social distancing in what are often crowded, hectic offices.  

Workers in the office, reps and activists alike, need to take control of the situation.  We can meet up in the canteen to discuss how to ensure safe working in and outside the office.

Our offices are full of people with coughs, congestion, and feeling under the weather. It’s been a rainy winter, and even Rico Back admits our wet weather gear doesn’t keep out the water!  Neither do the shoes, as many of us wait weeks or even months after ordering new ones due to company penny-pinching.   

But without tests to see who has Covid-19 and who just has a normal cold, it’s like Russian roulette– the only way to be safe is for those with symptoms or who have had contact with someone who does (a family member for instance) to go home.

What’s worse, there are vulnerable staff with medical conditions such as diabetes, heart or respiratory conditions like asthma, or on certain medicines, who have felt they have to keep working despite the threat to their health or even life.

The news is out that government workers who are vulnerable to Corona, with medical conditions and so on, have been sent home for 12 weeks on full pay. Royal Mail is a huge company, why can’t it do the same?

Royal Mail says people can self-isolate in these situations, but they have not come out and said that they will pay for it. In those areas where they are paying for some, we all know many managers (especially the Rico Back, anti-union intake) will try to get around this new policy, so workers will have to watch them like hawks and ensure it is enforced in their workplace.

However, Royal Mail still won’t guarantee that being off for corona symptoms will not trigger a stage and see someone end up dismissed, warning that they will investigate anyone who has been off too long with it or who gets it more than once! 

And those who are on half or zero sick pay already for being off too long for injuries or other conditions will not get full pay or paid at all. For those with kids whose schools are closed, you have to swap annual leave or just go home unpaid.  

The result has been offices with many staff who should have been at home but are at work, spreading it to colleagues and the public. 

Of course, in true Royal Mail caring style, when someone does go off sick with symptoms, they just get pressured to come back in like always, before they have done the full 14-day stint!

No doubt, as more and more staff fall ill or self-isolate, the pressure build on those left to speed up, deliver more, and not work to their time, when many offices over the last year will already have had conflicts over management bullying and harassment.

Some staff have faced racist harassment from the public as they go about their delivery, often with little support from management.  

There is an alternative. If staff don’t feel safe, they should get in the canteen and sit in until the situation is sorted. We can do the same to defend members who are threatened with the sack, cut wages or nil pay.

But it will take national efforts by the union to make Royal Mail to pay all staff have to self-isolate and to drop stages, the real answer to the problem of people working while sick.

The union sent out a letter to branches explaining Corona and when to self-isolate, but it is just a summary of what the NHS and government are saying, nothing challenging Royal Mail’s policy on pay and stages.

Sadly, they have so far have not so far pressured for the company for these measures, at least publicly where members can see it, possibly in hopes of getting a deal with Royal Mail. A deal shouldn’t be at the expense of our health.

Dave and Terry are now saying that getting us the equipment we need like sanitiser is a top priority, we certainly need that but paid leave without conditions is the most effective safety measure, for staff, their families and the public.

The alternative is the workers and our families absorb the costs, and worse, are put in danger of getting infected at a time when the NHS can’t cope, or spread the virus while out on their rounds.