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OVER the past five years, Post Office Ltd has announced the closure of 150 Crown Post Offices. The most recent announcement, in October, of a further 74 Crown offices to be privatised, means the entire network will have been cut by 60 per cent since 2013. The plan to “franchise” these offices into bargain-basement, exploitative outlets such as WHSmith is a national disgrace.
The privatisation agenda at the heart of successive governments has led to the systematic downgrading of this essential service. Two independent reports have concluded that the previous franchising of Crown Offices to WHSmith has resulted in longer queuing and service times, inferior customer service and advice, poor access for the disabled and a huge reduction in the number of counter positions.
At the same time, the privatisation programme has led to the loss of experienced and dedicated staff. The community nature of this service is slowly being abandoned in pursuit of cost-cutting and narrow-minded private interest.
WHSmith – the chain taking over most of the post office counters – has been voted the worst retailer on the high street in the Which? 2018 survey. If that wasn’t bad enough, the chain has been rated in the bottom two retailers for the last eight years in a row.
WHSmith’s business model is based on exploitation, with low wages a key pillar of its practice. The replacement of well-paid quality jobs with the lowest possible pay and poor conditions is nothing other than an exploitation of staff and the local community.
Closing a post office has a devastating impact on the high street as its location often provides custom and business for the surrounding outlets. High streets are already under assault and this move could be the last straw for many of the areas set to lose their standalone post office.
Just like Woolworths and BHS, the recent poor performance of WHSmith could mean closures of their own. Why on Earth would Post Office LTD choose this retailer when even the Financial Times are openly discussing the financial demise of WHSmith? It wouldn’t be the first time, however. It wasn’t that long ago that the Post Office Ltd located counters in the chain Bargain Booze – before that folded.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. Unlike the Post Office Ltd, the Communication Workers Union (CWU) has a vision for the post office. Rather than destroying the entire network by choking the service through poor provision, we should be looking at installing new services in offices across the country, such as the Post Bank. Doing so would not only break the financial stranglehold of a few capitalist banks, but would also breathe new life into this cherished community service.
Today we are taking to the high street to demand that our post offices are saved and protected. Across the country we are hosting in excess of 40 campaign events as we come together to say that enough is enough. From Truro to Aberdeen, our members and supporters will be speaking to members of the public and gathering signatures for our petition condemning this latest plan. Throughout our history the CWU has demonstrated the fact that it is a radical and fighting union. This day of action only continues in that tradition. We will do all we can to save our post offices. Will you join us?
support the campaign on social media: #SaveOurPostOffice
Andy Furey is a national officer of the CWU
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