Royal Mail puts “profits before security,” say postal workers, who say the company is not protecting them from the risk of getting coronavirus.
There is a shortage of gloves, masks and hand sanitizer, employees across the UK told the BBC.
They also say that social distancing at work is “almost impossible”.
Royal Mail says it has invested £ 15 million in protective equipment and that the health and well-being of staff is their top priority.
In the past two weeks, staff at eight Royal Mail locations, including three in Scotland, have raised concerns about security concerns. The BBC saw images of employees working side by side in a sorting office, with limited social distancing measures in place.
A supervisor based in the north of England said: “It has been over two weeks since the lockdown and we are in a situation where there is still a lack of PPE [personal protective equipment], there is still a lack of disinfectants, there is still a lack of direction. “
He said staff felt “forced to choose between work and health”.
“I am afraid that my job will be in danger if I refuse to do a task because I think it puts me in a dangerous position,” he added.
Since the lockdown began, there have been unofficial releases at Royal Mail sites in Chatham, Southampton, Stoke-on-Trent, Warrington, Didcot, Edinburgh, Alloa and Fife.
The staff of the delivery and sorting office based in the North West and the Midlands described difficult conditions without “space” to be safely two meters away. They too feared for their jobs if they expressed their concerns publicly.
A postman said, “The buildings we work in are not designed for people to space. Everyone is gathered. We are under each other’s skin. It’s just impossible. ”
He also criticized the company’s response after voicing concerns about the lack of supplies of hand sanitizer during delivery rounds.
“When it all started, we said [to management] we need this stuff. But our big boss upstairs just said, “No, you just need to wash your hands.” I would love to wash my hands, but nowhere is open. Everything is closed. It’s ridiculous. “
Another postman said, “We are touching 850 unprotected mailboxes. Coronavirus is described as a nuisance in my office. “
“It’s not too much to ask to be equipped for the job,” he added.
The Communications Workers Union (CWU), which represents thousands of postal workers, accuses Royal Mail of being slow to respond to the crisis.
Northwest Division representative Ian Taylor said he was “busier than Christmas” with the packages and said it was imperative that protective gear reach front-line staff.
The CWU estimates that 20% of Royal Mail staff are currently on leave. This equates to approximately 26,000 sick or self-insulating postal workers, at a time when parcel deliveries have skyrocketed as more and more people shop online during the lockout.
“People really need to think about what they are buying at this particular time, it puts incredible pressure on front line workers,” said Taylor.
The postal workers told the BBC they were “exhausted” from the extra workload, delivering items like home gym kits and garden furniture, as well as junk or publicity mail.
To alleviate the workload, Royal Mail has changed its spam policy. It will now only be delivered to people who are already receiving letters or parcels.
The company refutes the union’s claims and says that “as far as possible” the workers were kept at least two meters apart. Regular hand washing with soap and water is encouraged among staff and there is “improved disinfectant cleaning of common areas”. The company bought 400,000 bottles of hand sanitizer, the statement said.
A spokesperson for Royal Mail said: “By assessing the risks to our employees and making the operational changes necessary to protect them, we take professional health and safety and health advice on a daily basis.
“We have already made a series of adjustments to our package handling procedures to protect our colleagues and customers. “