The machine behind the Royal Mail strike

Solystic MARS mail sequencing machine (pic: Solystic)

Solystic MARS mail sequencing machine (pic: Solystic)

Sometimes it feels like there’s nobody so ignorant as the British media. There is precious little explanation in today’s papers about what the national postal strike is actually about.

This is one of those whats. On the left is a mail sorting machine made by French firm Solystic. It’s Solystic machines which Royal Mail has been trying to introduce into mail centres, and whose adoption were a key part of the 2007 modernisation agreement. So why haven’t they been rolled out yet? Is it as simple as a Luddite union standing in the way of modern technology?

Er, not necessarily.

Walk sequencing machines are so called because they arrange mail in the correct sequence for a postperson’s walk. Business plans drawn up over a year ago envision rolling out the machines across the country, but a document last year suggests this had to be delayed.

In 2007, the then trade and industry secretary, a certain Alistair Darling, gave Royal Mail a £1.2 billion loan for modernisation. This money still hasn’t all been spent. Royal Mail planned to buy 1000 walk sequencing machines, but they never have. Current plans would only see 33 machines nationwide by April 2010.

Two months ago I reported on Communication Workers Union officials saying that the machines were being mothballed instead of trialled. CWU London divisional rep Mark Palfrey said Royal Mail were having second thoughts over the machines. As he said in my article:

“Do the machines do the job? Yes they do. Do they do it as quick as the current machinery? No they do not.”

“Distance mail [from distant parts of the country] does not arrive in inward mail centres till four o’clock in the morning… That mail would not now land in delivery offices till ten o’clock.”

“Royal Mail is having a debate. That’s clearly what’s going on, hence the attack on the front line postmen to reduce the cost, where they thought machinery was going to do that.”

If the machines are rolled out nationwide, he said, the public will have to get used to getting their mail even later than they do now.

Here’s the thing. Machines mean job losses. The CWU knows and accepts there have to be job losses. What they’ve told me (and I’ve no way of proving this as yet) is that Royal Mail are deliberately failing to consult on modernisation in order to justify a larger scale attack on jobs, and possibly union recognition, occasioned by a painful period of fallout and national strike.

It would be nice to have some sort of answer from Royal Mail to all this. Answer came there none.


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7 Responses to “The machine behind the Royal Mail strike”

  1. Enoch Was Right Says:

    A postperson? Its political correctness gone mad. You are quite clearly some ultra-left wing, union-supporting troll.

  2. Oli Says:

    Hmm. That looks like a supercomputer, circa 1961. Nothing but the most modern equipment for our Royal Mail…

  3. Engineer Says:

    royal mail have installed 80 machines and are expecting to have over 600 by the end of 2012. the machines are efficient and the picture is the old varient the new ones are fast 44k letters an hour. give me a postie that can compete and you would have a valid argument…

    • lastreporter Says:

      Argument? What argument? I’m not making an argument, I’m explaining what the issue is. I’ve presented the CWU argument; none was forthcoming from Royal Mail.

  4. The moral of the Royal Mail: transform your core business early.. | Creative Disruption Says:

    […] A big part of the modernisation plan is walk sequencing machines. Hoopers report showed that leading European postal services used walk sequencing machines for 85% of their mail, while the Royal Mail still did all of this sorting by hand. The Royal Mail has since committed hundreds of millions to modernisation including walk sequencing machines from a company called Solystic [branded 'the machine behind the Royal mail strike'.] […]

  5. Lori Says:


    […]The machine behind the Royal Mail strike « René Lavanchy's Blog[…]…

  6. The Cost of Privatisation | Going Postal Says:

    […] about the Royal Mail operation is being changed. There are very expensive new walk-sequencing machines in most offices, for sorting the post into the order in which it will be delivered, new regional […]

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