CWU and the Post Bank
This week’s strike by CWU members in the Post Office provided some media attention on the ongoing problems at the Post Office whose future looks decidedly uncertain.
Dave Ward, the general secretary of the CWU, is seeking a conference that all stakeholders can attend to discuss the future of the Post Office network and look at alternative ways to make it a useful and strategic part of this nation’s infrastructure as it once was. Foremost in his thoughts is the introduction of a Postbank, something that has been successfully combined with a post office network in other countries.
It is an admirable suggestion and a possible solution not only to Post Office problems but also the problem of the rapidly diminishing branch network of High St banks.
However in my opinion, the way things stand at the moment, a Post Bank could never work and the reasons why it can’t work define the key problem that will undermine any future attempts to save or reinvent our beloved Post Office network.
As I have said Dave is seeking a conference to address Post Office issues and invite all stakeholders. Well that’s part of the problem in a nutshell. The stakeholders. Who are they? Who identifies them? Who do you leave out? There are so many groups floating around that seem to think they have stake in the Post Office that Dave better hire Wembley football stadium I think to make sure they all get a seat.
But the one apparent stakeholder you have to leave out is the current Post Office management team. They are the culprits and the ones who have destroyed the network all in the vain attempt to make it financially sustainable. They have ignored the critics who from day one of this current Network Transformation project identified correctly what the future would bring. Of all the comments that were made by these critics at the start of NT, two stand out: “it will no longer be a shop in a Post Office it will be a Post Office in a shop” and “lose the brand, lose the business”.
The other part of the problem then is that while the network size remains much the same, the experience, skill, and wages paid to the staff performing PO functions has fallen to an all time low. So desperate were POL to meet their NT conversion targets that they took on anybody that was stupid enough to want one. The Post Office is now a negligible part of the shop owner’s income and deserves and gets little attention. As was also pointed out at the start of NT, moving POs into mainly convenience stores was always going to be dangerous as convenience stores have an extremely high turnover of staff at minimum wage.
If Dave thinks these types of employees can offer a banking service then he’ll have to think again. Five years ago it would have been possible while the skilled and experience subpostmaster network was well equipped to handle such work although there was and still is another part of the problem that needs to be addressed.
The management team that brought in the disaster of NT remain in place. You couldn’t put the likes of Paula Vennells in charge of a bank for goodness sake. The only thing she has proved herself good at is hiring people that are happy to tell her how good she is. Incompetence is so rife in Post Office management that they all need to go as soon as possible. That is the key issue.
Perhaps there is a way to make the Post Office relevant again. Perhaps it may be through a Post Bank. But not in the hands or at the suggestion of the raving idiots who brought about the demise of the network in the first place.