The rate of absenteeism at bpost increased significantly in 2018, according to the annual report of the national postal utility. The increase was due to the opening of a new sorting centre in Brussels, which led to “a new series of security risks,” according to the report. However, the ACOD/CGSP public service federation, which represents the postal workers, said this explanation was wrong.
Last year, bpost had already indicated that the high rate of absences increased its costs. It announced a plan of action which does not seem to have borne fruit. After dropping slightly to 7.57% in 2017, the rate of absenteeism increased to 7.85% in 2018.
“After the opening of the new sorting centre, the biggest of its kind in Europe, a new series of security risks appeared,” bpost said. Packages used to be sorted in different centres, but now most are collected at the same centre. “There is therefore much more internal transport and many more containers to onload and offload,” the postal service added. “That increases the risk of incidents like blows, sprains or collisions.”
A huge action plan was launched in September to improve safety, according to a bpost spokesman. Over 100 modifications are being implemented based on a prior “in-depth risk analysis on the entire package-sorting process with all the operators,” the spokesman said, adding that “all operational chiefs receive new training and security briefings have been adapted.”
ACOD’s Jean-Pierre Nyns denied that absenteeism was due to the new sorting centre. The real reason, he said, was that “bpost often refused to grant leave to employees because many posts were vacant. “It was a very tough year,” he explained. “Were that not the case, there would not have been a strike, as occurred at the end of the year.”
The union representative admitted, however, that there had been a notable improvement in recent times. “A whole series of measures have been taken,” he said. “Between 600 and 700 new people have been taken on. It’s a breath of fresh air for the organisation.”
“I’m convinced the absenteeism will decrease now,” the union spokesman continued, adding that a new threshold had been crossed and that the onboarding initiation of new staff had also been improved.