The operators of licensed post offices across the country say they are facing a “return to the dark ages” after the resignation of former Australia Post chief executive Christine Holgate, according to an association that represents thousands of post office operators.
And the former boss has equally thrown her support behind licensees, offering to continue to work with them despite resigning from her position, and even volunteer in their businesses over Christmas.
The Licensed Post Office Group has been a vocal supporter of Holgate since it was revealed Australia Post spent $19,950 on four Cartier watches for employees in 2018, and Prime Minister Scott Morrison ordered the chief executive to stand down.
Holgate resigned from her position on Monday, saying in a statement she believes “the ‘ship’ needs a strong captain at the helm to help navigate through this time”.
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“The current issue I am managing is a significant distraction and I do not believe it is good for either Australia Post or my personal wellbeing,” she said.
But Angela Cramp, executive director of the LPO Group, says the resignation is a significant step backwards for Australia Post licensees, telling SmartCompany this morning that thousands of business owners are now facing insolvency.
The prospect of reduced payments to licensees is already becoming a reality, Cramp notes, who says they were informed on Friday that one payment from Australia Post would be reduced by 33%, with no consultation.
“That’s what this means,” she says.
“Christine valued the retail footprint; she valued what the licensees contributed to the business; she valued the fact we mortgaged our homes to represent the brand; and she believed we were entitled to a fair outcome for our efforts.”
During her three-year tenure, Cramp said Holgate had a deep understanding of the service provided by licensed post offices, and worked to address a number of historical issues affecting licensees, including banking services, underpayments and inter-business poaching of customers from LPOs.
“They have removed the best CEO Australia Post could ever have,” says Cramp.
“They will never get one with the integrity and passion of Christine Holgate, and that’s our concern.
“She is not replaceable. No one will come to this role with the passion and dedication, and innovation and inspiration, and the whole of Australia will suffer.”
The LPO Group represents 2,850 members, which service 80% of the Australia Post footprint. The businesses in the group range from owner-operators, to businesses with six terminals and up to 10 employees.
Last week, licensees showed their support for Holgate by sending $5 bills to Morrison in the post to “help cover the cost of the richly rewarded watches”, which were given to the four employees in recognition of their work on introducing the Bank@Post deal into post offices.
Cramp says the deal was instrumental in securing the future of licensed post offices, and was the first of several changes she was in the process of implementing across the network.
Reflecting on her time at Australia Post in a letter to licensees on Monday, Holgate said she has always respected the “significant personal investments” licensees make in the Australia Post brand, and their support gave her “the strength to continue” during the past weeks.
“I cannot begin to write how important your support to me has been throughout this time,” she said.
“When Angela [Cramp] first called me and challenged me to step up and continue, I was at a low point.
“Your belief and support gave me the strength to continue.
“As the days have continued, I am humbled with the literally hundreds if not thousands of letters of support, from customers, employees and many members of the public.”
Holgate told licensees that she has offered to help licensees in the LPO Group “in developing your strategies and ensuring your ongoing viability” when she is able to do so.
“I have even offered to come and volunteer with you ahead of Christmas,” she added.