Thursday, July 18, 2019

Post Office admits it can ignore the NFSP

NFSP HQ in Shoreham-by-Sea, funded to the tune of at least £1.5m a year
On its website, the National Federation of Subpostmasters (NFSP) proudly boasts it is "the only organisation that is recognised by Post Office Ltd to represent subpostmasters"

and it clearly states:

"The NFSP provides a number of products and services for the benefit of our members.  This includes representation of subpostmasters in negotiations with Post Office Ltd." [my italics]

The NFSP was thrown out of the trades union movement in 2013, and is now entirely funded by the Post Office. In March a High Court judge ruled that the Post Office "effectively controls" the NFSP.  Furthermore, "the NFSP is not remotely independent of the Post Office, nor does it appear to put its members’ interests above its own separate commercial interests."

In exchange for quietly feathering its own nest with Post Office money (between £22.5m and £37.5m over 15 years), the NFSP sold its members down the river by rubber-stamping and then banging the drum for the disastrous Network Transformation programme, which has had the effect of reducing the income of thousands of Subpostmasters.

One such Subpostmaster, Imran Khan, wrote to the Post Office in April demanding his auto-enrollment into the NFSP be cancelled and the share of money which would otherwise go to the NFSP be used to fund his membership of the Communications Workers Union (CWU).

He believes the NFSP: "have no right to agree on my behalf any paycuts or extra unpaid work or anything which I don't feel suitable myself" and asked the Post Office to "pay me the money you are currently paying on my behalf to NFSP, so that I can be free to pay CWU myself."

He added it would be unfair "if after cancellation of NFSP membership, you are going to keep the money to yourself and not going to use it for my representation." 

Mr Khan, who runs the Frizington Post Office in Cumbria, received a sorry-chum-no-can-do reply from Nick Beal, the Post Office's Head of Agent Development and Remuneration. This is is the same Nick Beal who was a witness for the Post Office in the first Bates v Post Office trial at the High Court.  His evidence on oath was found by the judge to be "completely unrealistic... hard to reconcile with the actual documents" and "slanted more towards public relations consumption rather than factual accuracy".

In his letter to Mr Khan, Mr Beal wrote: "The grant Post Office pays to NFSP is not referable to the membership of specific postmasters.  The grant amount will not reduce as a result of you ceasing your membership with NFSP and so there will be nothing to re-allocate to CWU. Post Office discusses proposed changes to postmaster remuneration with NFSP but is not required to agree changes with them." [my italics]

So the Post Office refuses to recognise any other "union" and can completely ignore the NFSP, despite the NFSP's boasts about representing Subpostmasters in negotiations with the Post Office.

In May this year the BEIS select committee clocked this blatantly unfair set up after the CWU's Andy Furey explained it them. As the bemused MPs listened, he concluded: "It is astonishing. The closed shop agreements went many, many years ago.... There is no independence there. It is the tail wagging the dog."

One of the committee members, Stephen Kerr, agreed, saying: "I join with you in asking for the end of the closed shop. There we go. Conservative MP agrees with trade union official."

There was laughter at that, but the NFSP's contractual inability to properly challenge its paymaster, and its shameful behaviour over Horizon makes it partially culpable for more than a few ruined livelihoods - a failure it hasn't even begun to recognise.

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