Campaigners dealt ‘double whammy’ by Muswell Hill post office ‘sell off’

Campaigners outside Muswell Hill Post Office opposing takeover plans by stationery firm UOE. Picture

Campaigners outside Muswell Hill Post Office opposing takeover plans by stationery firm UOE. Picture: STEVE JONES - Credit: Archant

Campaigners have been hit by a ‘double whammy’ after failing to prevent Muswell Hill Post Office being taken over by a private company.

In July a Post Office announcement it would spin off Muswell Hill Post Office and turn the state-owned branch into a franchise of stationery company Universal Office Equipment (UOE) sparked a doorstep protest and boycott of UOE products.

A public consultation into the UOE and Post Office plans for the Broadway branch ended in September with an announcement last week the firm’s takeover will still go ahead.

Campaigner Janet Shapiro from the Hornsey Pensioners Action Group said: “Pensioners will be very angry. We have long argued these post offices should remain publicly owned, and properly funded as the place where government services can be accessed in person.

“This is so important to older people who want face to face contact rather than online access,” she said before adding many of the group’s members had written to UOE boss Elliot Jacobs pledging not to use the company’s products and services.

“What is very worrying is the declaration by Mr Jacobs he will not recognise the trade union Communication Workers Union that currently represents counter staff, for those staff who transfer to the privatised post office,” Ms Shapiro said.

“Experienced staff that we value may be reluctant to work for him, knowing that CWU won’t be recognised to negotiate for them in the future,” she added.

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The CWU’s Steve Jones said: “To add insult to injury Haringey residents have been dealt another blow. The loss of Muswell Hill is a double whammy as it is expected none of the highly experienced and much loved staff will remain. We understand they’ve been worn down by the stress of the uncertainty.

“It’s clear the Post Office is doomed to death by a thousand cuts as the jewel that is the Crown on our high streets is to be replaced with low paid, unskilled staff and if the new owner gets his way will not have a recognised union.”

Ms Shapiro also accused Mr Jacobs of being over-ambitious after the recent takeovers at post offices in Crouch End besides Muswell Hill, which she said has three stationery shops already.

In response Mr Jacobs said: “I am a huge advocate of the Post Office as an integral part of the community and I will not allow the Muswell Hill Post Office to fail. We are experts in retail and great at what we do. UOE invests heavily in staff training to ensure high levels of knowledge and excellent customer service, and this has successfully translated into customer loyalty and high levels of satisfaction at our current Post Offices.

“UOE has been trading since 1983 as a locally-owned and locally-run business with a proven track record of success. The UOE/Post Office business model has a successful history in terms of serving the community and I would not have applied for the Muswell Hill franchise if I did not have every confidence in its success.

“We are looking forward to working with the Post Office to deliver the service and experience that customers want, 7 days a week in a modern, fit-for-purpose store,” he added.

A PO spokeswoman said the Muswell Hill branch will close from 5.30pm on November 15 until 8.30am on 20 November to enable it to be transferred to the new operator with a second temporary closure in the New Year while refurbishment takes place.