Select Committee on Welsh Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Annex C



  Consignia uses machines to sort mail where possible, as this is the most efficent way of handling large volumes. The machines rely on being able to "read" the post codes written on envelopes. Where post codes are not included in addresses, or where the machine cannot recognise the code, it is necessary for a code to be applied to each piece of mail in order for it to be processed. Consignia has developed the technology to be able to manually apply these codes from a remote location, and has taken the decision to centralise this work in two principal manual data entry centres (MDECs), plus and additional contingency facility. This will reduce our costs and improve the reliability of mail delivery.

  The decisions on where to locate the main MDECs and contingent facilities were based on three main factors:

  1.  Identification of areas of the country with a suitable labour market to support staffing the MDECs into the future. Factors considered here included working population within 30 minutes travel time, student population for peak employment such as Christmas, local pay rates, long term unemployment rate compared to the national average.

  2.  Availability of suitable surplus Consignia accommodation within the area. The main requirement is to accommodate either 500 or 250 manual data entry desks on one floor without high building costs.

  3.  Availability of Consignia staff being made surplus by other projects. We are very committed as a company in trying to minimise the effects of re-structuring on our people by retraining and redeployment whenever possible, in order to try to avoid unnecessary redundancies.

  The most prominent factors which made each site attractive were:

    —  Plymouth: the existence of a surplus mail centre which could be cost effectively converted to an MDEC.

    —  Stockport: staff were being made surplus by other Consignia projects.

    —  Stoke on Trent: opportunity for maximising the use of assets by dual use of a new purpose built Consignia facility. This is a call centre which is not used in the evening (the peak time we require any contingency on manual data entry).

  There has been no public consultation on where we should locate MDECs. These centres have no direct interface with customers, and their locations are a commercial decision for Consignia management, in consultation with staff and unions.

  During our deliberations on the locations for the MDECs, we corresponded with, and met, a number of MPs and regional organisations who were concerned about the potential impact on their area to understand their views.

  The CWU and CMA were fully involved in consultation about the whole of the project including the criteria we used to select the MDECs.


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