Workers demanding Royal Mail conduct deep clean at Derry sorting office after COVID-19 outbreak

Workers at the Royal Mail's main sorting office in Derry are refusing to enter the building until a deep clean is completed following a COVID-19 outbreak.
The Royal Mail sorting office in Great James' Street.The Royal Mail sorting office in Great James' Street.
The Royal Mail sorting office in Great James' Street.

The Communications Workers' Union has said it is unlikely any mail will be delivered in the city for the remainder of today.

Charlie Kelly, of the CWU, told the BBC 17 staff had tested positive for COVID-19 and up to 32 further workers were self-isolating.

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"Staff want a commitment as to when it is going to get done," he told the BBC on Tuesday.

Several local politicians voiced their support for the workers.

SDLP MLA Mark H. Durkan said: “Royal Mail staff have offered a lifeline within our communities from the outset of the pandemic, working day in-day out. They deserve better and I had raised these concerns previously. I have contacted Senior Management as a matter of urgency to address these concerns."

Sinn Féin MLA Martina Anderson said: “Workers at the sorting office in Derry are very concerned about the potential for the spread of COVID after a number of staff tested positive in recent days. Management at Royal Mail should listen to and take on board the concerns of the workers and their trade union representatives."

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DUP MLA Gary Middleton said: "COVID-19 has had a significant impact on staff at Royal Mail. My thoughts are with all of those affected. Staff must be reassured that all of the necessary steps are being taken to keep them safe."

People Before Profit Councillor Eamonn McCann said: "The action of Derry postal workers today vindicates the argument made by People Before Profit for a number of weeks now.

"At council committee meeting yesterday (Monday), I asked my fellow councillors to spell it out in public that workers who felt unsafe going into work had every right not to go in."

A Royal Mail Spokesperson said: “Royal Mail takes the health and safety of its colleagues, its customers and the local communities in which we operate very seriously. A number of colleagues have tested positive for coronavirus at the Derry Delivery Office.

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"They are now recuperating at home and we wish them a speedy recovery. Some colleagues are also self-isolating. We have completed an intensive clean of the building and this has caused a minor disruption to service. We are working to resolve any additional concerns with our colleagues and our union.

"Throughout this crisis, every decision we make puts the health of our people and customers first. We have put in place a range of preventive measures to protect both our customers and our colleagues.

"We were the first UK company to put in place social-distancing measures in relation to parcel delivery. We pioneered contact-free delivery. We are temporarily not handing over our hand-held devices to customers to capture signatures.

"As well as encouraging good hand hygiene, standard ways of working have been revised to ensure that colleagues maintain appropriate social distancing at all times. All staff have been briefed about the social distancing measures jointly agreed by local management and the CWU. This has been supplemented with visible reminders such as posters and one-way floor markings."