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Calum Greenhow comment: Time for the pragmatic voice to be heard

Feb 15, 2024 |

Back in 2019, I was invited to a regional meeting in Birmingham on a Sunday. For me, Birmingham is 4.5 hour journey in good traffic conditions. I left the house at 5am and drove down for the 10am meeting. The rectangular room had been set up with chairs running length ways from left to right and table situated against the long wall for the speakers to be seated at. As I took my seat, I was aware of an individual coming in the door to my left, walking along behind the chairs in front of me and taking a seat to the back of the chairs to my right.

There were a number of speakers that morning with myself on last. I spoke and answered questions for more than two hours and was only stopped due to the venue stating that if we did not come now, lunch would be ruined. As my elderly father was unwell in hospital, I explained that I would be unable to stay for lunch as I need to get home to support my elderly mother. Due to traffic, I did not get home until 8pm and on checking social media, the individual I mentioned earlier had posted that I had refused to answer any questions and left early. Others who were not present had piled in to add their comments not only detrimental to me as an individual but also the NFSP.

My point is, if you are looking for reason, considered thought or accuracy, don’t look to social media as a source.

As you know a lot of my time is devoted to supporting the Inquiry to find out the truth of what happened in the past so that we can identify solutions on how Postmasters as investors in the business can engage constructively with Post Office so that together we can face the challenges that an ever-changing market place brings. I believe in collaboration with Post Office as our business partner, rather an adversarial or bone on bone relationship that some wish to generate.

Make no mistake, there are those in and on the periphery of the network who just seem to want to pour out the hatred and bile towards the Post Office with the aim of engendering a collapse of the business. For Postmasters who have collectively invested billions into this network, that would be a disaster for our future financial planning in retirement.

There is a long history of this going back to 2010. At the Inquiry, there is a lovely gentleman who is a former executive officer of the CWU, who attends on a regular basis. As such I have conversations with him, and he was keen to tell me of how two Executive Officers of the NFSP back in 2010 partnered with and were funded by the CWU. There has to be a question over whose interests these two Executive Officers were serving? Was it the interests of Postmasters or the interests of the CWU?

For the last 14 years, one of those former Executive Officers has been present at the opening of an envelope, if it is an opportunity to blame everything on the NFSP, yet the evidence they present is insufficient to fit on the back of a postage stamp. They were not the only officials of the CWU to infiltrate the Executive Council of the NFSP.

What is now evident is that 122 employees of Post Office Ltd are just as much victims of the Horizon scandal as Postmasters are. They were charged, prosecuted and convicted in exactly the same manner and by exactly the same people as Postmasters were. Some were sent to prison and had their lives utterly ruined. To be clear counter clerks of Post Office are under the remit of the CWU.

However, before the BEIS Select Committee in February 2015, the current Deputy General Secretary of the CWU said “No Crown staff have lost their jobs directly as a consequence of Horizon problems.” We know now that this statement was inaccurate.

What is even more striking is that Postmasters turned to the CWU and ended up as victims as well. It cannot be ignored that it was the former General Secretary of the CWU, who as a government minister, rolled out the Horizon system that destroyed the lives of so many innocent people. Yet, neither the CWU, nor the former Executive Officer of the NFSP accept or acknowledge any responsibility or accountability in hundreds of individuals having their lives ruined. Indeed, at the BEIS Select Committee hearing in 2015, the CWU stated “By definition, there will always be bad apples in the barrel.” Shocking!

In 2019, Mr Justice Swift in his ruling on the postal strike that was taking place stated, “What the CWU did in this case was … a form of subversion of the ballot process.” A Judge described the CWU’s culture as subversive. That is a strong word to use and is similar to disruptive, troublemaking, rabble-rousing and destructive.

Indeed, the recent strikes of the winter of 2022/2023 resulted in income to Postmasters via Royal Mail declining by an estimated £26m or £2,300 per office. Does any Postmaster honestly believe that the CWU gave your businesses one second of thought or if there was choice between the Postie and your business, that the CWU would support you?

Unfortunately, today, there are apologists for the CWU in the network, who do all they can to undermine the position of the NFSP with the aim to stir, cause unnecessary angst and be as inaccurate of the NFSP as possible. Whilst they are aligned with the CWU, they expect to use the resources of the NFSP to promote their brand of confusion. Their thought process is that they have every right to be funded by the NFSP to specifically undermine it.

Indeed, when the NFSP produced the DVLA Campaign, we have heard reports that a small group of postmasters did everything they could to undermine it, ridicule it and mock it. They played it down to discourage colleagues from engaging with it, which shows that as far as helping Postmasters is concerned, it could not be further from their thought process.

Their favourite tactic is to use the NFSP social media channels to spread their campaign of inflammatory comments against the NFSP. Whilst social media is a great tool to promote our businesses, using their tactics, the ordinary Postmaster has no safe space because they want to invade your home via your phone 24/7. When the NFSP tries to reason with them to be mindful that hardworking Postmasters need down time with their families, they claim freedom of speech. Let us be clear, harassment is not freedom of speech. This is why the NFSP are asking colleagues to stick to certain times such as 7am – 9pm Monday – Friday and 7am – 1pm on a Saturday with the Saturday afternoon and Sunday a time of quiet and peace so that colleagues can rest and recharge.

The number of colleagues that have approached me recently stating that they don’t engage with the NFSP social media channels due to the constant finger pointing and barrage of blame of a few individuals, is a concern. Hard working Postmasters need help, they need support but are afraid to engage or post comment for fear of being rounded on by a few who just want to be negative about everything, especially the NFSP. That worries me.

It is time for the pragmatic Postmaster’s voice who wants to serve their community and make a go of their businesses to come to the fore. Those who accept that yes, we have challenges ahead but together we can face them. Those who want to work with their fellow colleague to take the network forward. It is time for those who seek to be subversive to be ignored, to be pushed to the background and for Postmasters across the country to get behind the NFSP of today so that we can find the solutions we need to ensure that our investments are secure and that we can earn a return on that investment.

There are so many amazing Postmasters in the network who give so much to their businesses for the sake of their communities, who believe in the Post Office network as a resource for all sections of society. They want to hold their heads up and be proud to be a Postmaster. Now is the time for you to be heard.