Union to Post Office chief: ‘Build don’t demolish’

Postal, Post Office (PO)

Image credit: Jevanto Productions – Shutterstock.com

Wednesday 16th September 2020

CWU assistant secretary Andy Furey is calling for a “fundamental change of direction and strategy” from the Post Office Board, in response to today’s bad news of job losses in the company’s Admin and Supply Chain operations.

Some 41 CWU-grade posts are set to be axed, with the company citing Covid-19 and the declining use of cash – a trend accelerated during this year’s pandemic. A further c.110 management jobs are to go as well, making 150 in total.

Andy has already been in top-level talks with the company and secured a commitment that the longstanding MTSF principles will be applied, plus two key enhancements to the redundancy terms. 

“It’s awful news for many of the people concerned, who face an extremely worrying and stressful period ahead,” he told CWU News, “but all our reps, and myself as their national officer, will work as hard as we can to seek to ensure that those who want to remain employed are able to.” Andy has gained confirmation that the Post Office will offer alternative roles ‘wherever possible’ to those deemed ‘at risk’.

Full details of the locations affected, the enhancements to terms and other information has been sent to branches (LTB 454/20), while staff have been in conference calls and briefings today and further regular talks with the company are planned for the weeks ahead.

“While it’s good – if one can ever use the word ‘good’ when talking about job cuts – to get those redeployment commitments and compensation enhancements for those leaving on voluntary redundancy, let’s make no bones about it, this is not a good news story overall,” said Andy.

As well as pledging to continue to “do all we possibly can” to mitigate the impact of this announcement, there is also “an urgent need” for what Andy describes as a “fundamental strategic rethink” by a company that is owned by the Government and has a responsibility to protect jobs, especially when hundreds of thousands of people are losing their jobs due to the pandemic.

“Nobody’s denying that the use of cash in everyday transactions has been in sharp decline pretty much since ‘tapping our cards’ became the norm,” he explains. “And nobody’s denying that the Covid crisis has acted as a further accelerant in this respect. But what the Post Office needs to do is offset this decline with expansion and innovative growth plans elsewhere.

                                Andy Furey

“Stop the Crown Office franchising for example, bring failing franchised offices fully back in-house, create that People’s Post Bank that this union has been demanding for over a decade now, fight for and win new workstreams and revenue generators.

“Let’s re-unite the Post Office with Royal Mail and play our part, alongside our Royal Mail colleagues, in winning the biggest possible share of the booming parcels market.”

In his communication to staff this morning, Post Office CEO Nick Read talked about ‘resetting the Post Office’, of the need for a ‘much simpler organisation’, to ‘optimise our effectiveness’ and ‘adapt to enable Postmasters and the wider business to thrive’.

“There was no mention by Mr Read on developing new products,” reflects Andy. “In fact, his call for a ‘much simpler organisation’ sounded very much like a vision of a much smaller organisation, with more job cuts to come.    

This attack on jobs came just days after “worrying” news reports about three of the company’s financial products.

“According to Sky News’s Mark Kleinman and Miles Brignall of the Guardian newspaper, Mr Read apparently plans to sell off the Post Office’s telecoms, insurance and credit-card facilities,” continues Andy, making the point that, at the same time as cutting jobs in Admin and Supply Chain, the company appears to be in headlong retreat from the lucrative financial services sector.

The Kleinman article reports that the ‘Post Office is in talks to offload its telecoms arm and is exploring a sale of its insurance business, while Brignall writes: ‘Thousands of Post Office and AA credit cardholders are becoming customers of a little-known fintech company, Jaja Finance, after it bought Bank of Ireland’s credit card business’.

“Disposing of these revenue-generators which have developed and grown over a number of years seems an absurd idea when we’re constantly being told that the Post Office needs to improve its trading situation and, as such, it feels like a fire sale due to the significant legal and compensation costs arising from the Horizon scandal,” Andy comments.

“Yes of course there’s the immediate cash injection from a sale, but it’s a short-term, one-off boost, which will be followed by year-on-year falls in revenues and profits.

“We need our nation’s Post Office to be the shop window for Royal Mail and Parcelforce and to expand its financial services like the successful models on the continent – as a sound business strategy in itself, as well as a key part of its broader social responsibilities within our communities. A successful and thriving Post Office needs to be at the heart of nation’s high streets.

“The Post Office needs to be building – not demolishing.”