Union announces protest against plan to franchise Upper Holloway Crown post office
PUBLISHED: 13:02 14 January 2019 | UPDATED: 16:13 15 January 2019
Union chiefs fear plans to franchise the Upper Holloway Crown post office will dilute workers rights, threaten their pensions and lower customer standards – and they are organising a protest for January 26.
The Communication Workers Union [CWU] will lead a protest from 9.30am to 12.30pm outside the post office, in Junction Road, opposing plans to close the branch and relocate it inside Today’s Express, further down the street.
The Post Office launched a six week consultation on Wednesday, running until February 20 – but it states the move to franchise the branch (the process of rehousing it inside an existing private business) is “a commercial decision for Post Office Ltd and therefore we are not seeking feedback on this aspect of the change”.
The CWU area rep for north London, Clive Tickner, told the Gazette: “It will be a downgrade of the service and you will be losing 100 years’ worth of experience [from the workers who leave or are replaced].
“It will be part of the race to the bottom with people being on minimum wage rather than union negotiated wages.
“There is also an issue around accessibility for disabled people because Today’s Express is long and narrow whereas the current Post Office is disabled access friendly.”
Patrick Lynch, secretary at Disability Action Islington, said: “I don’t know why they’re moving from somewhere so good.
“When you’re in a wheelchair it’s a nightmare trying to turn around to get to the counter in a narrow space – I’ll support what they [the CWU] are doing 100 per cent.”
The union fears public service standards will be slashed as its experienced staff are replaced by “a completely new workforce” with minimal training.
It also argues private operators offer no guarantees of running a long-term postal service; and that workers will be subjected to inferior conditions, such as minimum wage and precarious pensions.
“It’s basically reducing the quality so they can do it cheaper,” a CWU spokesperson told the Gazette.
“When I first started working for the Post Office in 1975, we had nearly 1,500 postal offices but 40-odd years later we have barely 200 and they announced before Christmas that they were franchising 74 post offices across the UK to WHSmith.
“In north London, if the present program goes through, there will only be one Crown office left – in N1 – all the others will go and it’s happening all across the country.
“People have put their whole working lives into this, and they have irreplaceable relationships with customers – you can’t value something built up over so many years.”
Labour leader and Islington North veteran Jeremy Corbyn told the Gazette: “Post Offices play a vital role in communities and on our high streets, and they and their workers must be supported.
“The post office network has faced huge cuts in recent years – a Labour government will halt the closure or franchising of Crown Post Offices and launch a Post Bank.
“I support the CWU’s planned protest against the franchising of Upper Holloway post office.”
Despite union opposition, the Finsbury Park post office in Seven Sisters Road was franchised in 2017.
A Post Office spokesperson said: “The Post Office is not immune to the pressures facing all retailers on the high street and that’s why we have to make changes, to make sure our services can remain at the heart of communities for many years to come.
“It is natural that communities may have concerns about proposed changes to their post office, and we are currently holding a consultation, which ends on February 20, so that customers can give us their feedback on our detailed plans about how the branch will be incorporated into the store.
“A wide range of services will still be available at the Upper Holloway branch and the branch will be open longer, including on Sundays, making it more convenient for customers.
“We are also talking to the Upper Holloway branch team about their potential options. Employees have the right to transfer their employment in line with TUPE [Transfer of Undertakings Protection of Employment] legislation if a decision is made to franchise their branch, there might also be opportunities for redeployment or voluntary settlement.
“If a member of the Post Office team transfers employment under TUPE legislation they will do so with the protections afforded to them by that legislation.” The state-owned Post Office was separated from the Royal Mail in 2013. The coalition government privatised more than half the Royal Mail in the same year.