Third Class Post

29th April 2004| Channel 4 Dispatches

In a special investigation, Dispatches reporter Simon Barnes goes undercover inside the Royal Mail to reveal a damning catalogue of skiving workers, ineffective managers and criminals stealing millions of pounds from the post.

The Royal Mail loses up to a million letters a week. One in five of these has been stolen (according to Home Office research) but despite that, getting a job as an agency worker handling recorded deliveries, credit cards and cheque books is easy and involves no criminal record checks.

Inside sorting offices Simon is confronted by outdated machinery, which one engineer describes as “clapped out.” Another worker reveals that “sometimes you get a letter that is completely mangled and you can’t tell where it’s come from or where it’s going. It’s a good job the public doesn’t see it.”

And if letters aren’t destroyed they can get lost in the system for months at a time. Simon finds a letter that had been lying around the sorting office for four months, while managers openly admit that staff routinely hide mail around the office rather than sort it. Furthermore, the recalcitrant posties are supposed to work until 2pm but, to get them to finish their shift, managers have to pay them extra – a scam called ‘ghost overtime.’


Reporter: Simon Barnes
Executive Producer: David Henshaw