Subpostmaster members of the Communication Worker's Union are to take the Post Office to court to demand workers’ rights.
This would give retailers with an in-store Post Office the national minimum wage, annual leave, workplace pensions and reduced mandatory working hours.
If the subpostmasters win, they will be entitled to at least £20,160 per year in wages plus operating costs. Rolled out to all subpostmasters it would cost the Post Office more than £197m per year.
Currently, subpostmasters receive commission fees rather than wages. The Post Office recently reduced commission fees citing faster transaction times, leading to a wider dispute over retailer payments.
Subpostmaster and the CWU’s postmaster branch secretary Mark Baker Branch said: "The status of the subpostmasters contractual relationship with the Post Office has always been a source of argument." Baker said the new legal action would “Settle this argument once and for all," using the recent Uber case as the precedent.
Uber was recently taken to court by its drivers and forced to give them the worker's rights including those the CWU is now demanding for subpostmasters.
When informed of the legal action, Dee Goberdhan from Albany Road Post Office in Cardiff told Retail Express: “It would definitely be an improvement, at the moment my hourly rate from commission payments works out about £3 an hour.”
The Post Office and the CWU will now enter a mandatory ACAS arbitration scheme. If no resolution is found, the case will go to court to be heard by a tribunal judge. The case relates to all four types of subpostmaster contract.
Responding to the CWU’s legal challenge, a Post Office spokesperson told Retail Express: “The vast majority of postmasters are independent retailers running their own business. These retailers provide Post Office services from their premises as part of their overall retail offering, and many employ their own staff.
“The contracts we have with postmasters reflect the basis on which Post Office and thousands of postmasters successfully conduct business. Comparisons to other companies are not always appropriate given the different business models being used.”