Falkirk posties face pay cut for staying home in ‘red alert’ blizzards

Flashback to November, when there was 100 per cent support for an unofficial strike launched by Falkirk Communications Workers Union members.
Flashback to November, when there was 100 per cent support for an unofficial strike launched by Falkirk Communications Workers Union members.

Falkirk posties who heeded explicit Holyrood safety advice during the worst of the Beast from the East blizzards have been hit with pay cuts.

Around 35 of Falkirk’s delivery workers are set to lose anything up to four days’ pay for failing to appear at Falkirk delivery office at a time when the whole area was at a virtual standstill.

The shock Royal Mail move has stunned and angered local members of the Communication Workers Union (CWU), and a ballot for strike action is on the cards.

Many did arrive for work, braving treacherous conditions to hike three or four miles in spite of repeated warnings from the Scottish Government and the police.

It’s understood the Royal Mail’s intention to inflict pay cuts on those who failed to appear will be raised in the Scottish Parliament by West Lothian MSP Ian Findlay.

The SNP government is also to look at how new ways could be introduced to protect postal and other employees from being forced to work in dangerous conditions.

The CWU branch involved in the growing row represents workers in Falkirk, Edinburgh, Fife and the Borders, but branch secretary Gary Clark wants to make the issue a national “line in the sand” dispute over basic rights.

He told the Falkirk Herald: “We had the situation where people were being expected to turn up for work despite explicit warnings not to - at centres where there was in any no work to do.

“Depending on shift patterns people could lose one day’s pay or anything up to four days’ pay - it is completely unaceptable,”

His view is fully backed by Falkirk CWU secretary Paul Wright - who is also assistant branch secretary for the region.

He said: “We had the situation where people were walking up to four miles from Shieldhill to Falkirk down the main road - the only way that was clear - while the Scottish Government was saying people shouldn’t go out unless it was an emergency.

“People simply shouldn’t be expected to work in those conditions”.

The mood among postal workers across the region is said to be “very angry”, and backing for strike action is reckoned to be solid.

Those now facing sanctions for heeding the Scottish Government and police safety advice have the options of taking a pay cut, taking a cut to annual leave, or making up the lost time through work.

Many Falkirk Herald readers voiced their support in online comments following our original story about the pay cut decision at the weekend.

A spokesperson for the Royal Mail said: “Royal Mail has had no official notice of any ballot for strike action.

“Royal Mail has a clear adverse weather policy for employees who are unable to get into work.

“Employees should, in the first instance speak to their line manager about any issues.

“All employees are able to use annual leave or make up the time lost.

“Employees can also if they prefer take unpaid time off if they are unable to attend work.

“If a site has been closed by the business or, because of disruption there is no work to be processed or delivered, employees would receive their normal pay.”