The Post Office has confirmed that it is looking for a business to take over the operation of the General Post Office in Derry’s city centre.
And concerns have now been raised over what the future will hold for staff at the city’s head post office on Custom House Street.
Sinn Fein Councillor Kevin Campbell said that these were now ‘worrying times’ for workers.
The Post Office has said it will hold further talks with staff on an individual basis and look into whether the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment)- known as TUPE- applies in their case. TUPE is used to protect employment rights when employees transfer from one business to another.
Public consultation on the plans, meanwhile, is expected to get under way shortly,
The Post Office has confirmed its plans after being contacted by the ‘Journal.’ A spokesperson said: “We have briefed our staff at Londonderry Crown Post Office that we will be advertising for a local business to take on the operation of this branch.
“Any such change would be subject to a public consultation.
“We are continuing to make changes to our directly-run Crown Post Office branches to secure the future of services on UK high streets for years to come.”
The spokesman said that this was building on announcements earlier this year that the Post Office is seeking to replace or relocate directly-run Crown branches in 20 locations, including Derry.
“In these areas, the Post Office will advertise for suitable partners, or seek to work with local businesses that have the potential to open new branches in the area,” he said.
“ The plans are in addition to those shared in January to franchise 39 branches, some of which will be relocated to WH Smith stores as part of a new 10-year agreement reached with the retailer in April. This agreement covers up to 61 relocations into stores by the end of the year, with just over half expected to be concession arrangements still run directly by the Post Office.”
Most of the Post Office’s network of 11,500 branches across Britain and the north are already run on a franchise or agency basis with retailers.
The changes to the Crown branch network will form part of a “major modernisation programme that is transforming every part of the Post Office,” the company has said.
The spokesman added: “We will support our staff through any change and will talk to our staff individually about different options when we have detailed proposals for their branch, including whether TUPE will apply in their particular circumstances.”
Speaking about the staff, Sinn Féin Councillor Kevin Campbell said: “These are very worrying times for local staff who are concerned about what the implications of these proposed changes will mean for them further down the line.
“The Post Office has been there a lifetime and is always busy and the staff are so helpful. Anything you ever need, from passports to stamps, they will help you.
“It’s worrying as well for those who use the Post Office on a regular basis There’s a huge range of services on offer there and we don’t know what this will mean for that.”