The Post Office and the Communication Workers’ Union (CWU) have agreed to enter ‘intense’ negotiations over plans to give subpostmasters ‘Worker Status.’

A high-level employment tribunal led by the CWU was due to begin with witness evidence on 13 June, but has now been postponed until 1 February 2022, pending the outcome of the talks.

If the CWU is successful, Post Office branch owners would gain ‘worker status’ – giving access to at least the national minimum wage, holiday pay, holiday cover, national insurance contributions and pension contributions. It would also give sub postmasters the right to use collective bargaining to force better terms from the Post Office.

A letter from CWU assistant secretary Andy Furey to members, seen by RN read: “Following recent negotiations PO & CWU have now agreed a high level framework to support intensive discussions aimed at reaching a resolution to our employment tribunal claim. This positive development enabled both parties to jointly seek a postponement of the hearing which was scheduled to commence earlier this week.”

The first subpostmasters due to give evidence in in the hearing was Mark Baker, CWU subpostmaster branch secretary Mark Baker. He told RN: “This is really welcome news. With the recent rulings on similar cases including Uber, we know we are very hopeful we can achieve the same for subpostmasters.”

The Post Office refused to comment on the talks, but a spokesperson from the firm told RN: “Post Office’s new management is focused on resetting our relationship with postmasters and addressing the past issues relating to remuneration. We take the issues to be discussed at a forthcoming employment tribunal very seriously. We want to resolve them and are working hard to find potential solutions that are relevant to today’s Post Office and can satisfy the interests of all our postmasters.”

The official body representing subpostmasters – the NFSP has historically opposed the move to give worker status to its members, claiming the CWU was unlikely to succeed in its case and that worker status undermines their standing as business owners. The organisation wrote in April: “Anyone saying with confidence that it would be an improvement for subpostmasters is presenting a narrow, one-sided perspective. Worker status would not bring with it a utopia for subpostmasters.” While saying it didn’t know whether it would be good or bad for subpostmasters, the NFSP questioned whether worker status would cause subpostmasters to ‘lose ownership’ of their post offices, whether the value of their business would decline, whether rival post offices would be allowed to open nearby and whether dress code, working hours and performance could be ‘set’ by the Post Office.

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