The ‘final chapter’ in another Post Office scandal

Sub-postmasters in south west London are calling for help amid ongoing underpayment from the Post Office.

Jeevan Nadaraja, 38, from Hampton, has run a Post Office branch in St Margaret’s since 2014, when a new contract was introduced by the company replacing fixed salaries with inconsistent commission-only based pay equating to far below the UK minimum wage.

Nadaraja has posted informative flyers entitled “Final Chapter”, describing the sub-postmasters’ financial dilemma in his branch window, and is handing them to customers to spread knowledge.

He said: “We didn’t realise the amount would be variable.

“I’m really battling at the moment in modern-day slavery.

“It’s just not sustainable.”

According to the flyer, sub-postmasters would need to package around 60 parcels just to make the national minimum wage, currently £11.44 for those aged 21 or over, which is not always possible in one day.

Nadaraja continued: “I’ve been paying rent and all the bills together using family credit cards and loans to try and fund the branch.

“When I took over in 2014 I had three staff working but the money we were getting was not enough to pay them, so now it’s just me.”

Nadaraja, who is also an Uber driver by night, has two children to support, and until last year lived with his parents in Wembley.

His family, like that of other sub-postmasters are still suffering from the Horizon IT scandal, when faulty accounting data on the computer system resulted in thousands of sub-postmasters and Post Office employees facing erroneous prosecution.

He explained that five weeks’ worth of commission comes to around £2,500, and at the Kew Post Office branch it is estimated to be between £14,000 and £15,500 a year.

Being self-employed, sub-postmasters have no benefits such as sick days or pensions and strike action becomes difficult.

Post Office branches have to rely on their retail sales to make the most profit.

A 21-year-old worker from the family-run Post Office branch in Twickenham who chose to remain anonymous said: “We knew in order for us to cover everything, the retail part of the shop had to do well.

“We knew how little sub-postmasters are paid so we just had to keep faith in the retail part of the store and have faith in ourselves.”

The worker described how increasing prices are turning customers away, especially younger people.

They said: “There isn’t a short term solution that we can think of.

“If the Post Office want us to keep running the shops for them, we should get paid more so we can pay our employees fairly as well.”

According to a report in The Telegraph, the chief executive of the Post Office was paid £573,000 and requested a further pay rise, which was rejected by ministers.

Nadaraja explained that although Post Office branches are becoming largely redundant, customers still want a direct service.

Packages for example can be weighed accurately and there is often less risk of miscommunication, unlike online services which can be around 50p-£1 cheaper.

A Post Office spokesperson said: “We’re very sorry to hear of the experience of our postmasters.

“This is a challenging economic climate for many retailers and we recognise postmasters, like all retailers, have had to deal with increases in living costs which has impacted their bottom line.

“We have just announced a package of remuneration improvements for postmasters for the 2024–25 financial year worth £30million, which includes a one-off remuneration boost to be paid in April.

“Ultimately, if a postmaster no longer wants to operate a Post Office or can make more income from providing other services in their store, that is their decision to make.”

The Voice of the Postmaster is a campaign established in 2022 currently waging support for fairer pay and justice for Post Office branches nationwide.

Featured Image: Twickenham branch. Credit: Ina Pace.

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