Proposed takeover of Haverhill Post Office prompts grave concerns from trade union
Concerns have been voiced for the future of the Post Office in Haverhill High Street after the announcement of a proposal to have it taken over by a franchisee.
Last week, the Post Office confirmed that it was holding a period of consultation over its intention to transfer the running of the branch – the last remaining Crown Post office in Suffolk – to ZCO Ltd.
If all goes to plan the branch, which has eight staff, will be run by ZCO from April but the move has been questioned by town councillor Dave Smith.
Cllr Smith worked for the Post Office from 1977 to 2015 and from 2010 was the full/time Communications Workers Union (CWU) rep for the area that includes Haverhill.
He is still a CWU officer for the Post Office section of the branch.
Cllr Smith said: “What they are saying is that this is going to be an improvement for the public but we know that’s a nonsense really.
“They are saying it will secure the service for the future but there are no guarantees.
“The concern is the dumbing down of the service and replacing decent jobs for minimum wage and the retention of staff and all that knowledge and experience that goes with it.”
Mr Smith said that CWU colleagues have told him that since ZCO Ltd took over the Post Office branches inThetford and Newmarket in September and November, respectively, both have faced many issues.
“Thetford has only got two permanent staff there, the other staff that left have not been replaced and they’ve got queues 30 to 40 minutes long and they are having to shut some days,” said Cllr Smith, adding the target time was five minutes.
“I have spoken to someone who said Newmarket has been ‘an unmitigated disaster’ with long queues, the staff have little product knowledge and the training is poor.
“There’s been a high level of sickness, which i can only put down to stress.
“In Newmarket they are only employing four staff, which is half what it was previously when it was a Crown Post Office, so they are not offeringa like-for-like service.
“Currently in a Crown Post Office you get 30 minutes for staff training on Tuesday mornings and that is important but they don’t do that in franchises so the ongoing training is poor. We need to make people aware of what is going on because it is just a managed decline of the business that has been going on for years now.”
A spokesman for the Post Office said: “With regards to Thetford, I can confirm that there are no staff vacancies there at the present time.
“With regards to Newmarket, I can confirm that we are working closely with our partner that operates the branch to ensure that customers always receive a timely service.”
More by this authorSteve Barton