https://www.bucksfreepress.co.uk/news/1 ... -covid-19/
A postal worker at High Wycombe’s delivery office has been diagnosed with coronavirus – as whistle-blowing colleagues reveal fears for their safety.
Two postal workers – who want to remain anonymous – told the Bucks Free Press they were “fed up” with the situation at the Queen Victoria Road delivery office, citing a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) and breaches of social distancing.
A Royal Mail spokesman has confirmed that a colleague at the delivery office has been diagnosed with the virus after the Bucks Free Press approached them with the concerns raised by the whistle-blowers – but denied there were any issues with PPE and said the office has been given a deep clean.
One of the anonymous workers said the working conditions at the office were “bad”, adding: “You would think that a company such as Royal Mail would be on point with the current Covid situation. Such a pity they are falling way below good working conditions.
“It took them weeks to get any PPE to its staff. There are breaches of social distancing happening many times each day. We are currently sharing vans but after each use the vans are not being wiped down.”
The other added: “A postman in the depot on Queen Victoria Road has tested positive for the coronavirus and there are a 100 people working there with little PPE given (well, one bottle of sanitiser each).
“Social distancing just isn’t being implemented and I feel the whole office is at risk as well as the public.”
Chad Croom, branch secretary at the Communication Workers Union (CWU), which represents thousands of Royal Mail workers, said support is going to be given to workers at the High Wycombe delivery office at a “higher level” after they were made aware of the concerns about conditions.
He said: “Social distancing will always be our biggest issue because our offices are not designed to give the space that is needed for everyone to be in work at the same time and observe the 2m guidance.
“Our members are very conscientious about the service we provide to the public and splitting shifts, different duty patterns, reducing the daily service or even failing deliveries are not something many of them wish to do.
“The nation has been reminded of how vital our service is during this crisis and to reduce it in any way is seen by many as failing our customers.
“Unfortunately this encourages many of them to put the delivery of a parcel or letter before their own safety. This is not the view of the union who believe our members safety should be paramount.
“It is however a difficult message to convince our members of at times. Especially when one of the offices in our branch refused to work in what they felt was unsafe conditions and as a result had their pay stopped for what the business classed as unofficial industrial action.”
He added that there had been an issue with the provision of PPE at the start of the crisis, but as a result of “pressure” being put on the employer by the union at a national level, there should be an “ample” amount of face masks, hand gel, gloves and wipes available to workers.
He said that the CWU branch has pushed for an “intense” clean of the delivery office after a Covid-19 case was confirmed.
He added: “Our clear message to our members is that if they do not feel safe they have the right in law to refuse to work in those conditions.
“Unfortunately this means the service being stopped and going back to my earlier point, our experience is that members are unwilling to do this, where they are they will be penalised for doing so.
“The pressure being placed on our local reps that step forward as concern workers to protect our members is extreme. Facing an issue that none of us have been trained for whilst taking criticism from all sides is not easy for many.
“The efforts they are making as union reps as well as key workers should be applauded.”
Addressing concerns, a Royal Mail spokesman told the Bucks Free Press: “A colleague at the High Wycombe Delivery Office was diagnosed with coronavirus. We wish them a speedy recovery.
“Throughout this crisis, every decision we make puts the health of our people and customers first. We have since carried out a full clean of the building.
“There is sufficient stock of PPE at the delivery office, including hand sanitiser, protective disposable gloves, face masks and disinfectant wipes for communal touchpoints and vehicles. These items are freely available and promoted to staff.
“Standard ways of working have been revised to ensure that colleagues stay two metres apart. All staff have been briefed about the social distancing measures jointly agreed by local management and CWU.
“This has been supplemented with visible reminders such as posters and one-way floor markings where the building allows. In addition there is only one person permitted in a Royal Mail delivery vehicle at any one time.”
Public Health England has advised that people handling letters and parcels are not at risk of contracting the virus.
The World Health Organisation has also offered reassurance to those worried that the virus does not survive long on objects such as letters or packages.