Ex counter staff at Haverhill Post Office said 'terrible attitude' of the company now running it forced him to quit
A former employee of the company that now runs Haverhill ’s central post office has offered a damning indictment of its treatment of staff and customers.
The High Street branch was closed from last Thursday to Saturday, reopening on Monday – with a notice put on the door explaining that ‘staffing issues’ were to blame.
The branch was taken over from the Post Office on a franchise basis by ZCO Ltd in April.
After the three-day closure last week, the ex-employee of ZCO, who said he put up the sign on the door, spoke to the Echo about their time working on the counter.
He said: “I was there for just under two months and it wasn’t exactly pleasant.
“What everyone said to me was that the difference between when it used to be run by the Post Office and when ZCO took over was massive.”
The temp worker said the last of the original counter staff left the day he started. and claimed all of the eight full-time equivalent workers had accepted a redundancy package.
However, the temp said the original workers were told their hourly pay would be cut from £12.50 to minimum wage, which currently is £8.72p/h for anyone aged over 25, which was a big factor in their departure.
The ex-employee said that the branch, which has five counters, was short staffed regularly and that he only had two days of training, while being shadowed, before being left to do the job.
“Almost every day they (customers) queued up the street. Most of the time there there was a maximum of two people, two counters open. There was such a high demand by the people using the post office there was no way they could cope”, he added
“The staff were stressed and the customers stood waiting for half an hour to get served, which is not ideal for us because the customers are stressed and the staff are stressed and it’s wasting everyone’s time.”
Only four people in total were employed as counter staff while he was there, added the man.
On his lack of training, he said: “There was no proper training for me. When you are handling £10,000 every day it’s just not fair is it.
“On top of that, ZCO expect all their staff, if there are any till discrepancies, for the money to come out of their own pockets as well.
“It’s certainly not fair to the staff.”
On the day the closed sign went up, the man found out, he said, that the other three temps had all quit in the preceding four days and he was the only one left.
“No-one else turned up and and I said to the area manager ‘there’s no staff and we are going to have to close’.
“I said ‘why do you think everyone has quit?’.
“I walked out and said I couldn’t work for them because their attitude towards staff and customers is so terrible.”
The post office was also, claimed the ex-employee, not cleaned for weeks, and staff were told to clean it ‘if they had the time’.
He added: “Probably for at least one month when we were there the main part of the post office was not cleaned at all.
“There was dust and rubbish everywhere. We just did not have the time to do it.
“We sat down at ten to nine and we would literally be serving people all day until we closed.
“They just said we are not employing a cleaner but it’s down to you guys to do it if you can but it was pretty unpleasant to work in such a grubby environment.
“I just think people deserve more of an explanation about why the Post Office has become what it is, especially such a vital service like the Post Office. It’s something people really rely on isn’t it.”
The Echo put the ex-employee’s claims to the Post Office, for whom a spokesperson said: “We do not directly employ the staff who work at Haverhill Post Office, so we cannot comment on staffing matters at the branch.
“We have been in touch with the operator of Haverhill and the main reason that the branch was closed for a few days was due to an electrical fault, which has now been rectified. The branch is now open.”
Speaking to the CWU News, the publication for the Communication Workers Union, which represents postal workers, the union’s assistant secretary Andy Furey said he would be writing to Nick Read, Post Office CEO and speaking to Paul Scully, the Government Minister with responsibility for the Post Office, about the issues faced at the Haverhill branch.
He said: “There appears to have been a total service failure for three or four whole days,” adding, “this is extremely serious and completely unacceptable.
“If a franchise partner cannot or will not employ sufficient members of staff to carry out Post Office business adequately then that company is clearly not fit to run a Crown office.
“The Post Office senior management cannot be allowed to abdicate their responsibility here and must cease these ‘franchises’ to unreliable partner companies.”
ZCO Ltd was unobtainable for comment.