Thursday, 1 July 2010

Directing the Post

A letter to the JEP in 28th June 2010 complains about delays in the postal service:

What an absolute disgrace this new postal service is. What possible justification is there for sitting on mail that has already been collected from the post box and then delivering it three days later on an Island nine miles by five. On 19 June I received two letters postmarked 16th June from Jersey and one from the UK postmarked 18th June. How many people are aware that when they use the self-stick stamps they bought before prices went up that this is what they can expect? (1)

But the really important part of their letter is as follows:

It is particularly disgraceful that the above system includes hospital appointments. When unwell and told that an appointment will be made, it is worrying to have to wait several days to hear. (1)

With the Postal consultation suggesting a restricted service to 3 days a week, and daily only to those who will pay for it, what is the position regarding official and important letters, such as those for hospital appointments, or for that matter, for anything like a final reminder?

It might be said that people should pay on receipt of an invoice, but in recessionary times, when budgets are tight, more people will probably be paying later, and a delayed service may mean that even if they pay on time, the delay in letters travelling to and fro may take them beyond the seven days notice usually given. And it is not just in Jersey that this problem has been seen. Across the water in Guernsey, where similar suggestions have
been made, the same argument against is given:

Recently, one of your comment columns referred to the OUR (Office of Utility Regulation) report about the future of the postal service and suggested that householders would probably be satisfied with deliveries two or three times a week rather than every day. I would suggest that this could cause serious problems as many people do not use computers and rely on regular, prompt delivery of their mail that may include important items such as medical appointments and invoices etc. that may be subject to responses within a short delay. (2)

But what is really interesting is a letter published in the JEP the same day by "anonymous", which somehow did not make it into the online version of the paper. I don't know who decides these matters, but while it is in the public domain - the JEP's readership, the library archives - it must be helpful to know that a letter which is clearly an embarrassment to Jersey Post, when they are talking about cutbacks, is not more widely seen.

In response to Ian Carr, CEO Jersey Post (JEP, 18 Jun), headlined Change is vital to build sustainable future.

I'm pleased Mr Carr has agreed with some of the points I raised. However, the gist of my succinct letter concerned the directors' excessive salaries and bonuses received at this time of recession, and there justification when the rank and file received nothing.

The only mention I could see, was a, short paragraph, which read as follows: 'Regarding directors' remuneration, benchmarking, and realignment of packages to market rates started with directors' posts two years ago'.

Great terminology, but it still does not justify these amounts when: the workforce are getting nothing. Even though I still think the salaries are excessive, I do understand that the directors are in a highly responsible position. It is the bonuses that cause me and others concern.

The UK Prime Minister earns a similar salary to Mr Carr and is responsible for 60 million people; not 400 as is Mr Carr.

Top executive salaries and bonus comparisons for 2008/2009 are: chief executive, £153,000 and £179,000: (£26,000 increase); Finance director, £154,000 and £162,000 (£8,000 increase); . and HR director, £140,000 and £165,000 (£25,000 increase).

If Mr Carr and his fellow directors want to introduce 'change is vital to build a sustainable future' (his words), and are genuine in their concern. for Jersey Posts' future, then I suggest they do the decent thing and inject their bonuses back into the business to secure the financial viability and future for all of us.

This would show 'true commitment to the work force regain their trust and respect, and boost the morale.

Before I wrote my original letter I did my research for its contents by carefully listening and talking to all members of staff and gauging their opinions, moods, and their hopes for the future as to what is happening presently. at Jersey Post.;

I believe I am more in touch with the workforce, being 'at the coalface' than, sadly, our directors are. Mr Carr states he has a 'passion and clear vision' for the business and intends to see it survive into the future, however difficult that future may be.

It will not survive if they continue to pay themselves over half a million pounds in salaries and bonuses between three of them. Unfortunately, the truth is painful - Mr Carr and his fellow directors have been sat in their ivory tower at Rue des Pres for too long and have lost touch with the real workforce living in the real world.

Management salaries have also come to light in Guernsey:

The remaining Guernsey Post turnover of just £22m. (and declining) has labour costs of a staggering £13m., the majority of which is made up of management salaries. This is one of the things that the OUR are demanding must change, and rightly so. Guernsey Post is quite simply being extremely badly managed and the extent of this mismanagement has been brought to the attention of the public by the OUR and Guernsey Post don't like it. (2)

And the Guernsey readers have also noted the contents of a previous letter to the JEP on the subject (also apparently not online), and writes in the Guernsey Star:

I think that it is wise to gather as much information on a subject before one comments.. The simple fact - in Jersey at least - is that the Post Office is inefficient. I quote: "Jersey Post accounts for directors Salaries 2009: managing director, £133,000 plus £46,000 bonus equals £179,000 (2008, £153,000); finance director, 128,000 plus £34,000 bonus equals £162,000 (2008, £154,000); HR director £123,000 plus £42,000 bonus equals £165,000 (2008, £140,000). Total salaries for three members of staff, £506,000."(3)

When these large salaries and bonuses are shown, we are inevitably told that these companies have to pay "market value", but precisely how this rather nebulous figure is arrived at is never given in detail.

Payscale, an organisation which collects data to make comparisons of market value tells the inquirer:

Our algorithms analyze up to 100 comparable data points (position, location, experience, education, etc.) of individuals with similar attributes to create each report. The matches are precise and exceed traditional sample sizes for highly detailed comparisons of this nature. A PayScale Salary Report must be based on a minimum of 5 profile matches (your position, level, location, industry, etc.). If we can't find at least 5 profile matches for a position, then we consider the number of data points insufficient to provide a meaningful representation of the market and we will not produce a report.(4)

But all this means is that "market value" is what similar jobs in the market might get, and the set of data for small Islands and their economies is probably very small. It also means that jobs get advertised at these salaries, and people look for employment on those terms, regardless of what the job actually involves - because it is purely a statistical comparison, it divorces the job (and kind of work done) from the value it commands. It is, in a way, self-perpetuating.

As these kinds of figures are used to set salaries, perhaps it is time to call their bluff, and see if the market will in fact turn up eager candidates, just as competent as those who search after bloated salaries, as C. Northcote Parkinson once suggested. I think the results could well be surprising.


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