Post offices threaten strike over watches
Almost 3000 post offices across the country could shut their doors for one day on Wednesday, in protest of the federal government's treatment of Australia Post CEO Christine Holgate.
Ms Holgate was asked to step down from her role as CEO by Scott Morrison after it was revealed she used the company credit card to purchase $12,000 worth of Cartier watches to give to staff members as a bonus.
This decision has enraged the 2850 members of the Licensed Post Office Group, some of whom say Ms Holgate's appointment saved them from bankruptcy.
Angela Cramp, who heads up the group and runs three post offices herself, says every Licensed Post Office (LPO), as well as a number of staff, will send $5 in a registered post envelope to Scott Morrison to "cover the cost of the watches", and is in talks to close their doors for one day this week.
"We are talking about closing for a day of mourning in support of Christine Holgate," she said.
Mrs Cramp explained not everyone would take part, with some feeling they would disadvantage their customers too much, but said it could be a taste of a new reality for those unable to access a post office on the day.
"They may as well feel what it feels like because we are all going down - we are all going to lose our local post office," she said.
"We will wither and die on the vine - that was the strategic plan of the last two CEOs."
Ms Holgate is lauded by LPO owners for her Bank@Post deal, which saw the big banks cough up millions to have post offices help their customers with banking services.
Before the deal was made, Mrs Cramp said owners were losing out in a big way, with the service threatening to send them broke.
"I started the LPO group in 2012 because I was insolvent," she said.
"I had three very successful post offices, people coming in all day every day, employing about 15 people, and I could not pay the bills - I could not cover the expenses.
"It was terrifying."
In 2012, Mrs Cramp wrote a letter to every licensed post office to ask if they were struggling in the same way, and she said the response was overwhelming.
"I had people ringing me in tears," she said.
Ms Holgate's appointment in 2017 was a big turning point for the group.
Mrs Cramp said the new CEO had sat down with owners and asked where their "pain points" were - and immediately began work to correct them.
According to the LPO Group, providing banking services for customers was costing them an exorbitant amount of money, with many post offices forced to bring in extra staff to cover the demand of a service that didn't pay them a cent.
"(Ms Holgate) went through the whole process and looked at it and saw it was costing Australia Post $50 million to provide banking services. So she went to the banks and said this isn't working for us - you need to help cover the cost.
"After 12 months of hard slog - because guess how hard it would be to get $25 million out of a bank - she got it out of three of them and got significant amounts out of a raft of other financial institutions - I think 70 put in $25 million combined.
"She injected $100 million annually into the retail footprint to allow banking access across the country."
Mrs Cramp said Ms Holgate designed new measures to "share the pie" with licensees, and she believed it was the reason the Prime Minister had made a fuss over the gifting of the four watches to the executives who helped pull off the Bank@Post deal.
"I don't think the government wants her to share the pie, I think they liked the dividend they got by exploiting us," Mrs Cramp said.
"$20 million overpaid at Badgerys Creek apparently isn't an issue, but $20,000 for Australia Post is apparently a sackable offence."
Mrs Cramp said this week's protest actions would put MPs and the board of Australia Post on notice.
"If we go back to being exploited like we have been for 20 years, when we are broke and closed we will take a class action," she said.
"I cannot do this for another 10 years - she has been so vital to our business and reformed our business.
"The idea they would sack her, it's got nothing to do with watches and everything to do with something that nobody is admitting.
"We aren't going to take it - we can't just sit here and go broke and wither on the vine like the last two CEOs tried to make us do."
Originally published as Post offices threaten strike over watches