The announcement that 61 Crown post offices will be transferred to high street newsagents WH Smith was branded as ‘the beginning of the death rattle’ for a national high-quality post office network.
Unite, the country’s largest union, was highly critical of today’s (Wednesday 13 April) move by the Post Office that it will transfer 61 Crown Offices to WH Smith premises, with half of those being run by WH Smith.
Unite represents about 800 managers and supervisors in the Post Office; half of whom work for the Crown network.
The union said that this proposed transfer of another 20 per cent of the existing Crown Office network was privatisation through the back door.
Unite officer responsible for Post Office Brian Scott said: “This surprise announcement by the Post Office confirms that it is keen to move away from a direct presence on the high street.
“It is actually an acknowledgement that its business plan put together by highly-paid executives and the agreement with government, its shareholder, has disastrously failed.
“The transfer is the beginning of the death rattle for a national high-quality post office network. WH Smith is aware that there is a lot of improvement needed on what it will be taking over.
“The Post Office has been evasive in the detail and it is absurd to ask our members and the general public to believe that WH Smith has no idea where these offices will be situated.
“WH Smith uses the Post Office business to drive footfall and get more customers through its front door.
“Without these customers, WH Smith is a failing business. This will not, however, help the public when WH Smith places post office services hidden at the back of its shops and often inaccessible to the elderly or infirm customers that want to use them.
“The proposal to ‘host’ post offices on WH Smith premises is simply a forerunner to full transfer – it will only be a matter of time.
“This announcement is disastrous for the UK public and for Post Office employees.
“Those Post Office executives in charge of the Crown network have failed and should stand up and be counted. Heads should roll.
“Unite will continue to campaign for a sustainable and substantial Post Office network on the high street and the government should accept its responsibilities in providing sufficient funding to allow this to happen.
“Unite will also seek early assurances from the Post Office that our members are not simply dispatched into the wilderness of poorer conditions of employment in a race to the bottom for post office services."
In January, Unite expressed anger at the announcement by the Post Office to transfer a further 39 Crown Offices out of a total of 320 to private companies, such as WH Smith – these offices are included in today’s announcement.
Notes to editors:
For more information please contact the Unite press office on 020 3371 2065
- Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.