WORKERS with criminal records were hired to help sort through Edinburgh’s Christmas mail, the Evening News can reveal.
Six casual workers completed a week of shifts at the busy Sighthill sorting office before they were sacked when their offences came to light.
Royal Mail today said all of the 600 temporary staff hired were “closely supervised” during shifts, and the six workers – some of whom are thought to have convictions for theft – were let go as soon as Disclosure Scotland vetting checks came back.
Bosses added that protecting customer’s mail was of “paramount importance”, and the “majority” of temporary workers had been vetted before starting at the west Edinburgh facility.
But Tory councillor Jason Rust said all the checks should have been done in plenty of time.
He said: “It’s very concerning that the proper checks were not carried out in advance of these employees starting work. Obviously the Royal Mail were aware of the need for extra staff for some time, and they should have made sure people were checked properly.
“Anyone handling the mail needs to have undergone appropriate checks, and that’s especially true during the Christmas period when potentially valuable items are passing through the postal system.
“Royal Mail have taken action here, but I would hope they make preparations well in advance for next year.”
The workers completed their first shift on Saturday, but were informed on Thursday that their short-term contracts, due to run until Christmas Eve, were being terminated.
One of the sacked workers, Paul Kernachan, 22, from Slateford, said the recruitment agency which put him forward for the job told him his assault conviction would not disqualify him. Mr Kernachan said: “I applied for the job through a recruitment agency. I told them I had a criminal record and they said it wouldn’t be a problem, they had put other people forward who also had a record. They passed me on and I started work at the Sighthill depot on Saturday and everything was fine.
“I worked sorting out the letters and parcels and everything was going well. Then on Thursday I was told they were letting me go because I had a criminal record. I told them I had been honest about that and had been told it didn’t matter but that was it. I spoke to other people who were let go for the same reason. Some of them had convictions for thefts.”
Mr Kernachan, who was earning £6.08 per hour with overtime available, said he was convicted of assault last year after becoming involved in a drunken fight.
Royal Mail spokeswoman Morag Turnbull said: “Royal Mail’s Christmas recruitment campaign is the biggest of its kind anywhere in the country. We have had a tremendous response to the 18,000 temporary roles we had been seeking to fill this Christmas, with more than 110,000 applications.
“As well as its size, our recruitment of temporary workers differs from other large companies in that Royal Mail conducts a criminal records security check. We do this because of the paramount importance of protecting our customers’ mail.
“Edinburgh Mail Centre has recruited 600 temporary workers to help sort the Christmas mailbag. The majority of these temporary workers had undergone the full vetting procedure before commencing work at Royal Mail.
“On completion of the full vetting procedure, six workers were found to have failed the security check and are no longer working for Royal Mail.”