Post Office launch consultation into future of snail mail services as unions continue fight to halt Cumbernauld P.O’s closure

Written by Scott Campbell.
Published at 10:34 on 17 September 2013.
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IN A bid to redefine the purpose of the Post Office, for all customers, employees and stakeholders, the Post Office have unveiled a new consultation, to define and set out what people demand of the Post Office in a time where postal services are changing.

The consultation was launched on Friday, August 30th, 2013, and comes at a time when the Post Office are consulting upon plans to franchise 75 crown branches, including Cumbernauld’s, which is located within the town’s main shopping centre.

Two main unions, though, have already abandoned the consultation into the future of the Post Office; rubbishing it is a “political exercise”.

Unite the Union and the Communication Workers’ Union (CWU) announced that they were pulling out of the Post Office’s public engagement exercise, the same day as the Post Office launched the consultation.

Together, both unions represent 7,000 postal workers, with the joint decision of the unions following a six-month long dispute between the CWU and the Post Office over proposals to franchise 75 crown officers, cut 1,500 jobs and impose a three-year pay freeze. 

Dave Ward, CWU deputy general secretary, said: “It’s impossible for us to continue being involved in this engagement exercise when the company refuses to listen to the concerns of its own staff. 

“Our members have taken an incredible 11 rounds of strike action in defence of their jobs, services and pay, yet the company has so far refused to budge, choosing instead to spend tens of thousands of pounds on sending managers out to try to cover strike days. And these same managers are now being balloted for strike action in a separate ballot.
 
“The public engagement exercise is an expensive political exercise in preparation for mutualising the Post Office. We don’t believe you can have a successful mutual organisation which refuses to listen to and engage with its staff on the core issues of jobs and services and we cannot be sincere in any continued activity until our dispute is resolved. The timing is unfortunate, but it is not our timetable – it is the Post Office’s.
 
“We have been urging the resolution of this dispute for months and have many suggestions on how to make progress. In the meantime we will be encouraging our members not to take part in this engagement exercise.”

CWU and Unite have since written to Liberal Democrat MP, Jo Swinson, Minister for Post Offices, to inform her of the unions’ position.
 
A Post Office spokeswoman said: “The Post Office has been providing essential services to communities from tiny villages to large cities for almost 400 years. With around 11,700 branches, the Post Office operates the largest retail network in the UK and 99.7% of the population is within three miles of a Post Office branch. Every week around 18 million customers visit a Post office branch for postal, government, financial and telecoms services.

“The Post Office is a growing commercial business, with a social role. Having separated from Royal Mail in April last year the Post Office now wants to define its public purpose to inform its vision for a sustainable future. It is not being privatised.

“The Post Office established a Stakeholder Forum in October 2012 comprising stakeholders and experts from a range of organisations to begin defining its public purpose.

“The Stakeholder Forum has listened to views from consumer groups, staff and sub-postmasters in addition to hearing from people with experience of organisations which exist to provide services to communities and society as a whole.

“The Forum is now starting a comprehensive engagement and research exercise to get the views of the public and wider stakeholder groups, before reporting its findings to the Post Office Board.

“There will be a number of opportunities for people to get involved during the next 3 months. The exercise will involve both qualitative and quantitative research, using interviews, questionnaires, focus groups and surveys to ensure a broad and considered range of opinions.”

The Stakeholder Forum comprises of a number of organisations including Post Office Ltd, the National Federation of Sub Postmasters, Shareholders Executive, Dept. for Business, Innovation and Skills, Consumer Futures, Age UK, BBC Trust, Mutuo, Citizens Advice Bureau, and the British Youth Council.

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