10:30AM, Thursday 21 April 2016
Concerns for both staff and services have been raised over the potential takeover of Maidenhead Post Office by WHSmith.
A new deal was announced on Wednesday, April 13, between the Post Office and the store to ‘relocate’ up to 61 branches into stores run by the national news agent.
The agreement gives the high street chain options to take over services from any of 314 directly-run Crown Post Offices nationally – including the Maidenhead branch, which was included on a list of 39 whose future was put up for consultation in the New Year.
Speaking about the potential for a take-over, Chris Roche, from the Communication Workers’ Union, which is representing staff at the High Street post office, said he thought quality of service for customers and employment standards could suffer.
“We have concerns about WH Smith as an employer,” he said.
“Staff aren’t paid much more than the minimum wage, which can downgrade the service provided.
“The other issue we have with WH Smith is that running post office services is its secondary business.
“This is not a case of WH Smith supporting the Post Office; this is using the Post Office to support their core business and that impacts on service to the public.”
A search for a franchise partner for the Maidenhead Crown Post Office was started shortly after the announcement that its future was up for consultation in January.
The reasons for the store being included on the list have not been made public and the Post Office has refused to comment on whether the branch is run at a profit or a loss.
The news prompted the Advertiser to start a campaign to save the branch which, at the latest count, had received 933 responses.
Shortly after the announcement of the WHSmith deal, a Post Office spokesman said: “We’ve done the franchise partner search, which is commercially confidential, and we’re now working through the detail of that.
“When we have done so and got to the point where we have an agreement, we will then go to public consultation which we will unveil and let people engage with what we’re planning.
“At the end of that consultation we will make a final decision.”
At the time of writing WHSmith had yet to respond to requests for comment.
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