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Palerang’s rural post offices in trouble

Palerang

by Maria Taylor

Licensed post offices across Australia, particularly the smaller ones, are in financial trouble under current Australia Post management, according to a recently-released Senate report.

Citing the report, Independent Senator Nick Xenophon said many LPOs face unsustainable trading conditions and little or no recourse to renegotiate their agreements leading to potential financial ruin.

“Many LPO operators have told me they’d be happy to receive the award wage for the long hours they work. Many LPO operators are on subsistence levels of remuneration or are eating into their existing assets to keep their businesses afloat,” he said.

The Bulletin canvassed a number of local post office managers and while no-one was willing to speak on the record at present, the difficulties were confirmed. “We don’t make the minimum wage for the time spent,” said one.

We were told that while the traditional letter post income is declining, the upsurge of parcel post due to online shopping is causing major problems for local post offices both in unpaid workload and even regarding storage capacity.

It was pointed out that Captains Flat and Murrumbateman post offices closed in recent years. The Sutton store and post office is up for sale. Bungendore and Braidwood, with larger populations, still experience similar pressures under the current system that is geared to make a profit for Australia Post.

The post is a community service, argued one owner, but it is not run that way. With the extraordinary salary ($4.8 million) of Australia Post CEO (and former NAB banker) Ahmed Fahour making national headlines a few months ago, it was reported that Fahour said the business now is “all about parcels”.

He said that Australia Post can no longer “subsidise” distribution of regular mail at a loss. It was also reported that Australia Post’s recent positive income from a focus on parcels was seen as justifying the astronomical paycheck for the CEO.

Angela Cramp from the Licensed Post Office Proprietor organisation told the 7.30 Report that the top 10 executives at Australia Post earn more than $20 million per year and the organisation pays over $880 million in dividends to the government.

Senator Xenophon and Queensland LNP Senator Barry O’Sullivan, a driving force in the Senate investigation, are asking for urgent government action particularly relating to a fair return for services at the coalface and an effective dispute resolution process.

“The trading conditions imposed by Australia Post on its own LPO network are unacceptable and ultimately self-defeating for an organisation serious about fulfilling its universal service obligations,” said Xenophon. The question remains, does Australia Post accept that obligation.

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