Australia Post using its data to reject claims of unsafe postie practices

A pilot program is also underway with Google to allow the organisation to implement safer delivery practices for staff.

Australia Post has been piloting a program with Google Learning to allow the organisation to indicate things such as "a footpath as opposed to a road" so it can improve the safety of its posties.

The pilot will accompany the posties' existing telematics devices, which includes a 360-degree camera and speed recorders. There are around 3,800 of these units in use across the country.

According to Australia Post executive general manager of deliveries Rod Barnes, these devices measure the likes of tilt, past acceleration, breaking, speed, and GPS location all in the name of safety.

Representatives from the government-owned postal service were facing Senate Estimates the morning after the union representing posties claimed they were engaging in unsafe work practices in an attempt to clear delivery backlogs and postage delays as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Our posties have never seen so much change so quickly," Barnes said.

He said Australia Post has been in regular contact with the union and said the safety element raised by the Communications Electrical Plumbing Union was "very concerning".

"We have a 'One Safe' procedure in our system where we encourage, and we train, our staff to record hazards and risks on all of their rounds," Barnes said, noting this ranges from dogs loose on the streets, Telstra pits, and even magpie zones.

"There is not one entry in that One Safe system that recognises this risk posed by posties … so we need to work through that if that is in fact what is happening.

"The electric three-wheelers have a governing device speed limiter that if the postie engages -- which they're supposed to as policy -- restricts that speed to less than 10kms and that should be used in all cases on the footpath."

Further rejecting the claims through its data, Barnes said each and every postie has a scanner.

"That scanner is reporting on the number of parcels they scan, when they scan those parcels it records the timestamp, it also records GPS position. We can also tell whether that scanner is stationary," he said.

"On data and the information I have, there are some serious discrepancies in what has supposedly been surveyed to what I see."

Elsewhere during Estimates, it was revealed that four executive-level staff in 2018 received Cartier watches from the organisation as gifts, totalling AU$12,000.

The total number of incentives awarded this year was AU$97.4 million.

AU$9.6 million came by way of the postal services' sales incentive scheme. The Australia Post corporate incentive plan also provided 2,500 employees including general managers, heads of departments, and senior managers with a share of AU$60.5 million.

But as a "thank you" to staff that have been working throughout COVID-19, Australia Post spent AU$27.2 million. This comprised 34,500 staff such as posties and those in processing centres receiving a bonus of around 1% of their average earnings -- AU$600; with 3,500 licensees and contractors also receiving a one-off payment of AU$3 million -- around AU$500 each -- with contractors receiving this by way of gift vouchers to the value of AU$5.6 million.

No executives were paid a bonus for 2020, the company said.

Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts Paul Fletcher later on Thursday announced an investigation into the claims of AU$12,000 being spent on watches as gifts to Australia Post executives.

"I was as shocked and concerned as everybody else to discover this when it was revealed in Estimates this morning. I have spoken to the chair of Australia Post, I've explained that the government's view is that the boards and management of government business enterprises need to take great care with taxpayers money," he said.

"I have informed the chair of Australia Post that [we have been asked] to carry out an investigation into this matter, and I've asked the chair to provide the full support of the company for this investigation.

"And I've also asked the chair to inform the chief executive that she will be asked to stand aside during the course of this investigation."

Christine Holgate joined the postal service from health supplements giant Blackmores in October 2017 as its new CEO after Ahmed Fahour stepped down earlier that year amid concerns over his sizeable government-funded salary.

Updated Thursday October 22 at 3.25pm AEDT: Added remarks from Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts Paul Fletcher.

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