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PMP defends decision to satellite track its walkers

Thursday, 16 November 2006
By Print 21 Online Article

PMP’s new distribution service is designed for retail catalogues and other direct mail and is based on global positioning ‘track and trace’ technology. The service is already up and running in New South Wales with other states to follow next year, but the company is facing controversy over the system’s ability to monitor the every move of its walker employees.

Walkers in New South Wales are now required to carry a GPS device capable of tracking their every move via satellite. The system ensures they visit every house on the route, follow the schedule devised by management and complete the deliveries within the set time frame.

In a sign that PMP expected some staff to be less than pleased with the new arrangement, the information package given to the walkers with the tracking devices also included a resignation form. Steve Walsh, federal secretary of the printing division for AMWU, has expressed concerns over how the new GPS devices impinge on the individual’s basic right to privacy at work.

“The union would be concerned about the real reason for introducing such GPS technology, and we view it as an intrusive means of monitoring employees and their work performance,” says Walsh.

“The pittance walkers are paid and the areas they are expected to cover does not justify such a high level of monitoring from PMP. The company claims it is not a case of keeping tabs on workers but the reality is that is exactly what it is being used for. We would be concerned about it creeping into other areas, and where it would stop,” he says.

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties has echoed similar sentiments, but PMP has refuted any claims it has infringed on the privacy of delivery personnel through GPS tracking of catalogue delivery. Craig Davison, managing director of fulfilment for PMP, insists it has delivered new standards of accountability to the industry and allowed retailers the luxury of knowing their catalogues are reaching the right households on time.

“Millions of people all over Australia are supervised in their workplace each day, and that’s accepted as part of the job. Why should catalogue delivery be any different?” says Davison.

“In becoming the first company in the world to apply GPS technology to catalogue delivery, PMP is responding to retailers’ concerns that they could not verify how much of their material was actually reaching intended households on time. What we have done is introduce new standards of accountability to a marketing service that has operated as a cottage industry for too long,” he says.

PMP claims distributors have a responsibility to their clients to prove catalogues are being delivered correctly, labelling it as an accountability issue rather than a privacy issue. The company says the rollout in New South Wales has been highly successful so far, with support coming in from all its major retail customers, and is on track for its progressive introduction into the other states over the coming months.

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