Residents across the borough are becoming increasingly concerned about the lack of a regular service from their local postie – as Croydon and South Norwood sorting offices and their delivery staff have been hard-hit by coronavirus.
There’s particular concern from some older residents that their delayed post deliveries might mean that they miss their appointment from the NHS for the covid-19 vaccine.
Some addresses in Croydon report that they had no postal deliveries at all from the week before Christmas until the middle of last week – in some cases meaning that cards or presents despatched via Royal Mail in good time for the big day never arrived until the New Year.
Postal staff contacted by Inside Croydon have confirmed that there has been a high number of colleagues off sick or self-isolating because of the virus in their sorting office. The Communication Workers Union is calling for its members to be added to the priority list of people receiving coronavirus vaccinations.
The Royal Mail today issued a list of the 28 areas worst affected by covid-19 staff shortages, which includes Lewisham and Wandsworth. It has been reported that in one sorting office, in Horsham, seven members of staff contracted the virus and have not been able to work, while 21 people at the Margate delivery office have been forced to self-isolate after three staff members fell ill.
But the Royal Mail list includes no sorting offices serving Croydon – which takes in some or part of the SE25 and SE19 postcodes as well as the CR areas.
Royal Mail says it was “working hard to deliver the most comprehensive and high quality service we can to all our customers” despite the pandemic and the associated rise in pressure on delivery resources due to increased online shopping.
Christmas, of course, is the annual peak period for postal deliveries. Volumes of mail were even higher in December 2020, with many more people shopping online for gifts.
Routinely, Royal Mail hires thousands of extra casual staff in November and December each year to cope with the Christmas workload. But in 2020, the business also made 2,000 full-time staff redundant.
One anxious Inside Croydon reader said, “I have not had any postal deliveries since December 16 or 17.
“On the last day that I received post, several items had been bundled together and secured with an elastic band. Of the items that were franked, none had been posted less than five days earlier – by my reckoning there must be items that have been in the postal system for a month that they haven’t delivered to me.
“The Royal Mail website says, ‘some customers may experience slightly longer delivery timescales than our usual service standards’. That hardly fits delays of a month or more. You would have thought that, after more than nine months, they could have come up with covid-secure ways of working that didn’t endanger staff and ensured at least a basic service.
“I am genuinely concerned that I may never see all my missing post: Christmas cards, magazines, credit card statements, tax disc renewal notice… The Royal Mail have made no attempt to communicate directly about the service, or the lack thereof, or when or if there will be one again.
“The frustration is made worse by the impossibility of communicating directly with them. I am having to complain to customer services based in Glasgow!”
A Royal Mail spokesperson told Inside Croydon: “Throughout this crisis, every decision we make puts the health of our people and customers first.”
“All Royal Mail operational sites across the UK are working hard to deliver the most comprehensive service we can to all our customers in challenging circumstances.
“In common with most organisations, we have a number of employees who are self-isolating in line with official regulations. This has a direct impact on our staffing levels. Deliveries are being made every day and we are working hard to deliver as normal service as we can, drawing in extra resource where possible.
“Despite our best endeavours, some areas of the country may experience a temporary reduction in service levels due to unavoidable staff absences and essential social distancing measures. In such cases, we always work hard to get back to providing a normal service as quickly as possible. We would like to thank customers who have expressed their understanding of these challenges. We appreciate their patience while we continue to run as normal service as we can.”
And the CWU said, “Our members have worked under incredible pressure since the beginning of the pandemic. In the build-up to Christmas and a new wave of the virus, this pressure has only grown. Despite this, they are doing all they possibly can to keep the country connected.
“We ask the public to recognise and understand the tremendous efforts of our members in these unprecedented times.”
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