Post Office chiefs came under sustained attack in Tynwald today as they sought support for proposed pension changes and reductions in deliveries.

But the court ultimately approved the reforms without amendment, watched by postal workers who packed into the public gallery.

In scenes of antagonism rarely seen in the Manx parliament, members of the Post Office’s sponsoring government department stood to openly challenge claims of co-operation.

Department for Enterprise member Lawrie Hooper accused the Post Office board of being selective to the point of misleading in terms of the information it had provided over the options available.

He described the board’s approach as ’opaque and unhelpful’.

Both he and fellow department member Rob Callister (Onchan) rejected a claim from chairman Julie Edge that Post Office board had worked ’collaboratively’ with the department.

Members of the Communication Workers’ Union are due to go on strike on Thursday and Friday this week over changes to terms and conditions.

Post Office chairman Julie Edge is today seeking Tynwald approval to make changes to the pension scheme – closing the current scheme to any new employees and offering a defined contribution scheme in its place.

She also wants backing to reduce the number of letter deliveries from six days a week to five and to carry out a full review of post office retail services.

But she said no compulsory redundancies were planned.

Ms Edge told Tynwald members: ’The decision you make today will impact everyone at the Isle of Man Post Office, not just postal workers.

’To do nothing is not an option.’

The recommendations were ’fundamental to the future success of the business’, she argued, pointing to a £1.2 million loss on the retail network and increases in pension contributions.

Describing the government’s own digital strategy as having ’catastrophic’ impact on parts of the Post Office business, she said: ’Isle of Man Post Office must change and modernise if it’s to have a chance of surviving’

Tim Baker (Ayre and Michael) accused the Post Office board of showing no vision.

He has tabled an amendment that would add to the Post Office’s recommendations that the board be required to ’develop a sustainable vision’ including enhanced services, and in the meantime ’maintain the size and scope of the Isle of Man Post Office’.

Another amendment has been tabled, by Alex Allinson (Ramsey), would the offer of the defined contribution scheme for new members a voluntary one and require the board to ’negotiate with all employees and their representatives as appropriate to make changes to the existing scheme to ensure its long-term sustainability and affordability’.

It would change the recommendation to reduce letter deliveries to five days to ask the Post Office to bring forward proposals that ’may include’ the five-days option.

Dr Allinson’s amendment would reaffirm the Post Office’s position as a universal public service provider and call upon a ’vision’ to keep it part of the community and deliver enhanced services.

With no government ministers standing up to speak for the Post Office during the morning session, it was left to Chris Robertshaw (Douglas East) to suggest members’ ire should be directed closer to home, claiming he was ’embarrassed’ by Tynwald.

’We sit here today nit-picking around management issues when we, Tynwald, have yet again failed to address strategic issues,’ he complained. ’We simply have not got the capacity to deal with it strategically.’

He said Tynwald should set the strategy but leave the Post Office to deal with the management.

’If we are going to be managers and directors, let us resign as members now and go out into the private sector.’

Treasury Minister Alfred Cannan said: ’Sometimes we need to make difficult decisions.’

He said the board was not trying to denigrate terms and conditions and dilute pension arrangements.

’Mr Pullinger is calling for strikes. We should be calling for action that’s in the best interests of postal workers.’

He said closing the pension scheme to new entrants will protect the future of existing postal workers. ’Keeping the scheme open does them no favours whatsoever.’

Tynwald rejected amendments by Dr Allinson, Mr Baker and Kate Lord-Brennan MLC.

Mrs Edge’s motion was then carried by 15 votes to eight in the House of Keys and five votes to three in LegCo.

Source: IoMToday