The Public Face Of The Overworked

There was a time when if you ordered something by post in the UK it was delivered by Royal Mail. And postmen didn’t look overworked. Perhaps the people in the sorting office had it tougher, but we didn’t see them.

Royal Mail was a nationalised industry until it was sold off some years ago. Still, it has tens of thousands of employees, a strong union (the CWU) and from the way postmen talk about it – reasonable working conditions.

The Communication Workers Union is the biggest union for the communications industry in the UK with 199,443 members. Formed in January 1995 when the Union of Communication Workers joined forces with the National Communications Union, we represent members in postal, telecom, mobile, administrative and financial companies including Royal Mail Group, UK Mail and BT, Telefonica O2, Virgin Media, EE and Santander, as well as outsourcing company Capita. Our members’ expertise includes engineering, computing, clerical, mechanical, driving, retail, financial, call centre and manual skills.

Now online shopping has rocketed, and I see people delivering packages for private delivery companies like Hermes and Amazon. I see them running up stairs, hurriedly gathering signatures or pushing packets through doors.

They usually have no time for more than a glance at the people they deliver to.

Tamara and I know the Hermes delivery man and when he has time, we chat. He’s been helpful in the past, when Tamara would phone him and he’d coordinate deliveries for when we are in.

Yesterday he told us it was his last day because he was moving to work for Amazon. He was sweating from rushing about so much.

It occurs to me that when workers were effectively hidden from view in factories, we as members of the public would not see the way they were overworked.

Now we see them on the street, rushing about delivering parcels. I wonder what effect this has on the collective psyche? Does it speed us up to keep time with their speed? Do we become more anxious as we see their anxiety?

It certainly feels like it sometimes.