A new legal ruling “opens the door” for retailers to demand regular wages, pensions, holiday pay and other benefits from the Post Office, according to CWU postmaster branch secretary Mark Baker.
The supreme court ruled last week that Gary Smith, a plumber contracted full time for Pimlico Plumbers was entitled to “worker status” because the company exercised “tight administrative control” over how the contracted work was completed.
The barrister in representing Gary Smith, David Stephenson is also representing 170 post office retailers on behalf of the Communication Workers Union, as Smith believes the subpostmasters could also deserve worker status.
A successful worker status ruling would cost the Post Office more than £197m a year if rolled out to all subpostmasters. However, Baker said a successful ruling would only apply to those involved in the case.
“Others won’t be able to piggyback on this ruling unless they take part. We have a second wave of claimants that is getting bigger by the day,” he said.
Worker status brings with it financial benefits such as the right to the minimum wage, holiday pay and pension contributions. It also brings the right to refuse working more than 48 hours a week and the right to take collective action.
It would mark a significant change from current systems that led to subpostmasters working longer for less renumeration.
However, both the Post Office and the National Federation of SubPostmasters oppose the attempt to gain worker status.
“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," a Post Office spokesperson said.
“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.”
NFSP communications director Lyn Eccles said: "We believe the vast majority of subpostmasters benefit from being self employed."
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