The ‘consultation’ by Royal Mail on closure of Post Offices was always a case of going through the motions. The closure programme has been pre-ordained. It’s an economic decision resulting from the government’s commercialisation of the service and the ‘liberalisation’ originating from the European Union. Sticking offices in WH Smith’s was clearly a means of getting rid of those oh so expensive PO staff with their scandalously high wages.
Somebody has underlined this by posting a job advert on the Royal mail chat site, for sales assistant posts in WH Smith’s in Aldershot. With little sense of irony it says:
“WHSmith is the new home of the Post Office in Aldershot. To get the public’s stamp of approval (sic), we need a first class team to deliver the full range of post office services from within the WHSmith store.
Your ethos in life will be about ensuring the customer is happy and you’ll balance excellent product knowledge with the right selling conversations to ensure that every customer is aware of the great products and services on offer. You provide excellent service naturally & are ready to find the right conversations to drive sales growth with every customer. You will go all out to hit your sales targets whilst ensuring you are 100% accurate in your operational procedures. You enjoy learning new things and have a desire to keep up to date on product, operations & security. With an eye for detail, you’ll take pride in balancing your till every day and you’ll fully understand all the security processes and the checks that need to be made.”
These lucky individuals can look forward to “great rewards”, WH Smith discount card and a contributory pension scheme “after qualifying periods”.
What are the wages? As reward for “your ethos in life” of ensuring the customer is happy (even if they are peeved at losing their post office) you will receive the “great reward” of £5.82 an hour, barely above the legal minimum wage (now £5.52).
One scribe on the Royal Mail Chat site, in the know, tells us: “I have mentioned WHS pay a few times now! The best bit is they pay different rates for different towns – Aldershot £5.82 (it was £5.35 in August but for some reason those that applied didn’t last long!) whilst Staines merits £6.62 – will be interesting what they offer for Woking when that goes!
BUT the BEST bit is WHS offered ex Aldershot PO’s full POL (Post Office limited) rates £9.92 when they found they couldn’t keep staff – but they had all found better jobs!”
So there we have it: 30p an hour above the minimum wage will undoubtedly improve the service to the customer! Experience, of course, tells us that turnover of staff will be high. Closing Post Offices will achieve one thing – losing experienced staff. This is just another example of New Labour and the European Union’s neo-liberal dogma being imposed in the face of real life experience.
Even from a commercial standpoint the move into WHS makes no sense.
Here in Hanley, the old post office was situated very near to the bus station. It was always packed out because of its location. Then, early last year Royal Mail announced it was closing because it was no longer commercially viable. One sticking point, they argued, was the rent on the building was too much. Thing is the owner of the building ….. was Royal Mail! Hanley PO paid rent to its property arm! They then claimed that by sticking it in Hanley WHS – which is about as far as you can get from the bus station in the Potteries Shopping Centre – would improve its commerciality. Now, I’m not a student of business but surely someone at Royal Mail HQ would realise cutting back on PO products in favour of WHS wares plus a lower client base would mean less cash running through the new branch.
Unfortunately the campaign to keep the office open failed at it has now moved. The one time I’ve been in there since is the only time in memory I’ve seen the main post office in Hanley empty.