UK postmasters’ federation favours 15-year Post Office Ltd funding deal
The UK’s National Federation of Subpostmasters has said its members are “overwhelmingly” in favour of a new deal that will see the trade association funded by Post Office Ltd. The 15-year agreement will see the state-owned post office network operator providing £1.5m a year to the federation, along with more than £1m a year in grant funding for specific branch training projects.
The agreement drew warnings from unions that the NFSP was risking its independence by agreeing to funding from Post Office Ltd.
NFSP members voted on the proposal at a special conference in Birmingham earlier this month, choosing the deal while rejecting other proposals to merge with either the National Federation of Retail Newsagents or the Communication Workers Union.
The NFSP said on Friday that the “ground-breaking” deal will see automatic enrollment of all new subpostmasters as members from the beginning of October.
The organisation will have sole recognition as the body representing subpostmasters, developing its role as a trade association to support post office branches, particularly as they develop other retail activities alongside their post office counters.
The NFSP intends to become a company limited by guarantee within the coming weeks, with the agreement then being cemented in a Memorandum of Understanding between the new company and Post Office Ltd.
George Thomson, the NFSP general secretary, said the agreement was a “major step forward” for the relationship between subpostmasters and Post Office Ltd.
“Subpostmasters are facing increasing competitive pressures and challenges. It’s vital they have access to the best possible support to build successful and sustainable branches,” Thomson said.
“For more and more branches, this means developing and combining a wider retail offer alongside their Post Office business. We are now in a position to help them do that. This landmark deal heralds a new era for the NFSP and subpostmasters across the UK.”
Prior to the special conference in Birmingham, the Communication Workers Union wrote to subpostmasters warning them that if the NFSP comes to rely on grants from Post Office Ltd, they would lose an “independent voice” in the company.
In the open letter to subpostmasters, CWU general secretary Dave Ward said replacing the NFSP’s system of membership subscriptions with a grant payment from Post Office Ltd would be an “exceptionally high-risk strategy”.
He said the deal would involve a grant paying mechanism rather than a contract, leaving Post Office Ltd with “huge discretion into whether or not a grant is actually paid”.
“The mechanism supporting the MOU option will allow huge opportunity for the big multiple owned Post Office groups to exert undue dominance over the reconstituted NFSP, squeezing out the individual member,” Ward said in the letter also signed by national officer Andy Furey and CWU postmasters branch officer Helen Baker.
Ward himself commented: “It is not in the best interests of the Post Office or its customers for postmasters to be prevented from having a say in how it is run and raising genuine concerns. We want to see a strong and independent voice for postmasters.”