Camden Trades Council

Uniting workers and communities in the London Borough of Camden

POST OFFICE ANNOUNCES FRANCHISING OF SWISS COTTAGE POST OFFICE TO W H SMITHS

The deputation to Camden Council’s full council meeting from the CWU Counter & Clerical Branch
is on Monday evening 11 November at 7.00 PM.On Friday

The Post Office announced that 16 of the 35 Crown Offices
across the U.K. listed for franchising this Financial Year will be
transferred to W H Smiths. One of these 16 is Swiss Cottage Post
Office (18, Harben Parade, Finchley Road, London, NW3 6JU) which
will be relocated in March 2014 to W H Smith at 9-10, Harben
Parade, Finchley Road, NW3 6JS. The proposed changes will be
subject to a 6-week Public Consultation from 14th October until
25th November. However, the Post Office has stated that “the way we
operate the branch is not a matter for public consultation”; they
are only seeking the views of the public on issues such as location
and accessibility. The Post Office are promising extended opening
hours and the same level and range of services(including a Post
& Go machine, and the addition of National Lottery, but
with the exclusion of an external cash machine). However, the
Communications Workers’ Union, which represents the 8 remaining
staff members (who, together with the 2 managers have a combined
total of 185 years’ service) has expressed serious concerns about
the detrimental impact on the service provided to the public. Post
Offices within a W H Smith have in the past had poor reviews in
terms of quality and speed of service. Indeed , the Consumer Focus
(now Consumer Futures) report entitled ‘Are you being served?’,
published in November 2012, criticised the performance of Post
Offices franchised to W H Smith. They were the worst performer on
queue times and scored badly on quality of service and
accessibility. The report noted: “Average queue times in W H Smith
are now considerably longer than in other parts of the network – at
5 minutes 29 seconds. This is considerably longer than the queues
in Crown offices, and almost twice as long as in other franchised
branches. W H Smith post office outlets will, by their very nature,
and location be generating considerable business and therefore this
marked difference in service standards is disappointing.” A CWU
spokesperson said: “We have grave concerns over W H Smith taking on
a further 16 post offices. They have been responsible for the loss
of two post offices in recent months because they closed their
shops – one in Runcorn where the service ended up in the back of a
Tesco and the other in Grays, Essex, where the service is still
being temporarily run out of a council office building. In both
cases customers were left in the lurch with no services for a
period of time. These cases show the uncertainty of hiving off post
offices to large chain stores. “Franchising post offices to
companies like W H Smith has been proven to reduce the quality of
customer service and there are often issues with access
arrangements for those with buggies, wheelchairs or mobility
issues. In addition, the last time W H Smith took on post offices
they weren’t interested in employing the long-serving, experienced
post office staff with hundreds losing their jobs as a result. CWU
challenged this in court and TUPE will now apply. “It’s deeply
disappointing that further franchising is being considered when
there are so many negative connotations linked with this model.
Staff and customers alike will be concerned at this news.” The
C.W.U. has reassured staff members and offered them C.W.U.
representation at their personal options interviews with managers:
they will be seeking the best personal outcome for each individual
as regards their 3 options: TUPE, Redeployment and Compromise
Agreement (Voluntary Redundancy). The C.W.U. will also be
continuing their campaign to defend the Crown Office status of
Swiss Cottage B.O. and shall be discussing various further
initiatives.

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