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Postie dismissed for limiting unsafe overtime

Postie dismissed for limiting unsafe overtime

NZ Post this week sacked a postie from the Greenlane Delivery Branch when he said he was exercising his right to refuse excessive overtime to protect his health and safety. The postie’s union, the Postal Workers Association, has described NZ Post’s action as abusive, and sending a message of intimidation to other posties.

The dismissed postie, Mark Mattat, had been required, against his will, to work 13 hours of overtime and 11 hours of overtime in successive weeks when he was rostered to a new Delivery Round.

“The job of a postie involves hard physical work for several hours a day in all weathers, six days per week. It is hard enough for a postie’s body to recover after working a full-time week, without the additional stress of excessive and unreasonable overtime,” said PWA organiser Mike Treen.

Mr Mattat said he “felt exhausted from the excessive work demands and became concerned for my own and others’ safety when I found himself repeatedly ‘nodding off at the wheel’ while driving home after my overtime. I sought the union’s advice on how I could safeguard himself against the rapacious work demands of my employer, NZ Post” said Mr Mattat

PWA organiser Mike Treen said the union “advised Mr Mattat that his employment agreement required him to work ‘reasonable overtime’, but no more than that, and provided him with guidelines as to what amount and frequency of overtime that was. He was also advised that health and safety concerns should be paramount in his decision-making.

“When Mark Mattat limited his overtime to a reasonable level, he was suspended. NZ Post told Mark that, in spite of concerns for the health and safety of himself and others, NZ Post required that he must fulfil his obligation to NZ Post and deliver all the mail that was allocated to him, no matter how much that was.

“The PWA told NZ Post that the health and safety of people was more important than a company policy which was not based on any legal requirement. Nevertheless, NZ Post dismissed Mr Mattat, without notice.

“The PWA has been representing NZ Post employees since 1994 and, in the PWA’s experience, the company’s treatment of Mr Mattat is entirely typical of the intimidation the company uses to manage its workforce. PWA member posties throughout Auckland regularly report huge workloads and insufficient staff. The inevitable result is that NZ Post, by its own admission, injures a postie at work every 1 hour and 6 minutes – a result NZ Post itself describes as ‘woeful’.

“But, in Mr Mattat’s case, he refused to be bullied into performing excessive work and asked that NZ Post recognize his rights. NZ Post, faced with an employee they could not bully, dismissed him. The PWA believes that NZ Post did this because they were afraid that other posties would be inspired to follow Mr Mattat’s lead and claim their rights.

“Attempts by the PWA to address the unsafe work practices dictated by NZ Post have been rejected outright by Post management. The company requires posties to sort letters, magazines, parcels and circulars while they are riding and/or walking their rounds. Despite innumerable stories of posties sustaining injuries through not watching where they are going, Post refuses to acknowledge that this is an unsafe practice. Although there are contractual limits on the maximum weight that posties can be expected to carry, Post refuses to provide scales which can weigh mail bags. And the company continues to require posties to pre-sort mail in their depots on excessively large sorting cases which have been declared unsafe by an occupational health expert.

“NZ Post justifies posties’ excessive workloads through the use of an outdated work measurement system which, in the PWA’s assessment, grossly underestimates the amount of work that posties perform. NZ Post expects posties to achieve a daily work rate of 75 under the system. Post told Mr Mattat that the reason he was working so much overtime was because he wasn’t working fast enough, achieving work rates of less than 60. But, at Mr Mattat’s invitation, Post sent a work measurement officer to observe him over a full day. The officer reported that, despite the system recording a work rate of only 56 that day for Mr Mattat, he in fact sustained a very good work rate throughout the day, and he was a very accurate postie.

“As well as a disgraceful injury record, NZ Post in Auckland has a serious problem of being unable to retain posties in the job. Exit interviews have revealed that “excessive workload” is the main reason why posties quit. Although this huge staff turnover has existed for several years NZ Post has failed to apply any effective solution to the problem.

“Ironically, the NZ Post manager who dismissed Mr Mattat used to be a postie herself. She applied for promotion because, in her own words, she found the postie job too hard and too tiring.”

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