Select Committee on Trade and Industry Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 160-163)



  160. Do you have unions?
  (Mr Carvell) We have unionised members. We do not recognise a single union but there are unionised members in the workforce and across the UK. We have never had a representation from a single union. That is up to the employees to come forward with.

  161. That may be the reason why you have never had a strike.
  (Mr Carvell) We got something right in the way we managed the people and the longevity of the people who stay with us. They have bonuses which they work towards at Christmas for low absenteeism and productivity. The whole thing is geared to people staying with us, earning a good wage packet for a job well done and getting paid for what they do rather than just getting a salary.

Mr Hoyle

  162. What is longevity? My understanding is that within your business there is a high turnover of owner drivers and drivers, so much so that you really have a recruitment problem in, shall we say, the Oxford area where there is a lot of competition. Not just yourself but most of your competition is struggling in the same way.
  (Mr Carvell) I guess we can go back a long way to the days when there used to be apprenticeship schemes when people used to come up through the ranks, but that does not happen much these days. Regionally, there are problems recruiting class one or LGV1 drivers for driving articulated vehicles. There is a shortage and we have to compete in the market the same as everyone else. We have to pay more if we want the best. That is an issue and we have to cope with that on a nightly basis. We do not have a problem with collection and delivery drivers, the guys in the white vans. There is quite a waiting list of people who want to come on board and earn a very good living driving. The other area where we do get a turnover of staff would be the same in our industry generally and that is night sortation workers, working pretty awful hours. That is always a concern but thankfully where we are, in the centre of Birmingham, where we have the majority of staff, we seem to have quite a waiting list of people to come in.

  163. What do you mean by "the last mile" because I think people will believe you mean one mile? It could be the last 50 miles, I presume?
  (Mr Carvell) It is generic. There are 1,400 local delivery offices in Frinton on Sea, Sutton Coldfield and places like that. There are about 70 mail centres. Some of the mail centres are delivery offices as well but let us say we have 1,400. We have discussed and negotiated with Royal Mail to have access either into the local delivery offices, of which there are 1,400—in other words, we could choose to go in every day to every delivery office and the postman in that local delivery office on his bicycle or in his van would go out and do the deliveries in his postal code. That could be one mile, 20 miles or 30 miles—or we could go into the mail centre and the mail centre will feed the local delivery offices into his region and then the postman will go out and do his final delivery. That is the affectionate term, "the last mile", but it could be the last 25 miles and it could be done in a van.
  (Mr Cockburn) This industry's health depends only on one thing which is what the customer thinks. We think that there is scope here for making the industry more attractive to customers who have more choice and are asking for more choice. When you talk about the speed of competition, the mere fact that we have discussed this and the Postcomm proposals have let the genie out of the bottle. Customers have high expectations that there is going to be change and choice and that is going to come more quickly. There is enough cream in this pot for everybody. I do not think we should be putting obstructions in the way of competition. If we welcome it and respond to it, as long as the price is on as fair a basis from Consignia as it is from its competitors, that is the best basis for satisfied customers, for maintaining jobs and creating earnings in an industry which still has huge potential for growth.

  Chairman: On that note, cream without cherries but thank you very much, gentlemen. If there is anything else we want to get back to you about, we will as soon as we can.

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Prepared 12 August 2002