Thousands of fast track parcels 'stuck' in Northampton depot because of staff shortages

Stacks of fast-track parcels remain piled up at the Swan Valley depot, eight days after their projected delivery date.
Stacks of fast-track parcels remain piled up at the Swan Valley depot, eight days after their projected delivery date.

Next-day delivery parcels at a Northampton sorting depot are waiting for eight days or more before being dispatched because of cuts to overtime staff, it has been claimed.

This week, employees at the Swan Valley-based South Midlands Mail Centre have contacted the Chronicle & Echo to express serious concerns at the length of time it is taking to process parcels.

The date - August 1 - of one of the parcels.

The date - August 1 - of one of the parcels.

“They are failing every day. The company is so focused on keeping the shareholders happy now, they have forgotten about customers,” said one employee. The staff discontent comes as the 1,100 or so workers at the Northampton depot edge ever closer to strike action.

The Chron has been sent pictures that allegedly show crates of fast-track parcels, dated for delivery on August 2, still in trollies at the depot nearly a week later.

The staff members claim customers would have paid a premium price for speedy delivery, though the Royal Mail says it has not been informed of any delayed packages.

Another member of staff told the Chron that year-on-year efficiency savings have curtailed overtime hours leaving the workforce unable to cope with the increasing influx of parcels.

They said: “There are simply not enough hours in the system. They don’t want to give any more overtime out.

“It’s all about saving money. Special delivery items are not even getting scanned,” he added.

“When you see thousands of items that are meant to be next day just standing in the depot, it’s disappointing.”

Gareth Eales of the Communications Workers' Union (CWU) that represents Royal Mail staff said he was aware of the reports.

He said: "In respect of the quality of service issues that our members have highlighted, as a union we will be making representations to Royal Mail on those very same issues again - I can say no more than that."

A Royal Mail spokeswoman said: "Mail which arrives in our offices is delivered to very high standards.

"In fact, we adhere to one of the most demanding regulatory service standards in the world.

"There are thousands of parcels at South Midlands Mail Centre at any given time. We are not aware of any service issues in relation to premium delivery parcels. These items carry barcodes and are tracked to ensure they are delivered on time. First Class mail is delivered the next day after posting and Second Class mail within three days of posting.

"The quality of service we provide to our customers is very important to us. If we have higher than expected volumes of mail or absence levels, then we respond quickly with contingency plans. Contingency plans often include extra overtime or temporary staff.

"Overtime is offered and paid where we need it. Naturally, we seek to align it to mail volumes and workload. We meet with our union every week to review resourcing and overtime."