What are You Doing?
Due to the recent bargain basement price for membership that another representative body has offered, the LPOG has been increasingly asked if we can match this offer.
In short, no we cannot match POAALs offer.
Why? Essentially you get what you pay for. The quality of your business decisions will determine the quality of your business outcomes. You’re welcome to set your own level.
LPOG need to base the costs of membership for LPOG on our ongoing requirements in the consultative processes with Australia Post, on behalf of our members. LPOG makes sure we have members, or executive members, in attendance at every critical meeting called by Australia Post. We make sure we are on the ground if something is happening. Member's funds are used exclusively to represent the needs of our members. The budget doesn't include lurks and perks for the executive, but it does allow LPOG to engage with professional parties, as and when required or necessary on matters that will change our businesses.
LPOG costs also include; IT costs, maybe higher than expected but comes with huge savings in not needing a dedicated office, we have our website as our admin centre and connectivity centre; 1 part time employee (Felicia) as our Chief Operations Officer; and, our recently appointed Managing Director Graeme Obrien. Anyone using the members only pages within the website knows that their questions and concerns are normally responded to within a few hours, if not minutes.
Graeme is upskilling and guiding the Board in the ways of negotiating directly with Australia Post to achieve our desired outcomes, not theirs. Suffice to say not many of us came to this point in our lives with the skills necessary to negotiate favourable outcomes when dealing with hundreds of millions of dollars in payment arrangements. Graeme's previous life was with Australia Post, and part of his time was sitting on the other side of the table from POAAL withholding our payments. So he has a lot to teach us!
LPOG is a "not for PROFIT" franchisees Association, with active working licensees and partners. Because we have our own LPO businesses, we well understand Licensees' financial requirements, and the prerequisites for the future sustainability of our own LPO investments. We care about our outcomes personally. If we go home without solutions, we just wake up the next day in exactly the same mess.
This is why we understand our issues so well, we are all living with the problems that have been engineered for more than 2 decades by having only POAAL and Australia Post agreeing on our business needs.
Up until now, every Licensee in the network has benefited from the work and money provided by LPOG and its members, insofar as all gains have been passed on to all, regardless of membership. This will soon come to an end. LPOG has received approval from the ACCC for the right to undertake collective bargaining for its consenting members. This may mean that Australia Post is not required to pass on any gains to every Licensee, just those covered under the collective bargaining authority.
LPOG recommends Licensees take the time to do their own due diligence, in regard to the quality, and value for money, of the choice of representation. Licensees looking to make an informed choice on the performance of any representative body should seek information from key stakeholders in our Industry. Ask the questions you need to have answered from the parties you are looking to meet your needs.
The most important body of work for Licensees is currently underway, that is our Payment review, and it is where you need to make very sure your voice is in the room where the decisions are being made. LPOG is in the room with PIP, Australia Post and the Accord Group, and LPOG is leading our push for our viable and commercially sustainable future.
POAAL has declined to participate in this ongoing working group. LPOG has yet to see any contribution offered by POAAL to the working group, and that certainly is concerning. Not just for the lack of representation for Licensees who consider their needs are being represented, but for the consultative process in general.
As Australia Post is effectively owned by the Government of the day, which effectively makes the government of the day our franchisor. LPOG has focused a lot of our attention, and sought assistance from many members of parliament, from all parties, and both houses in an endevour to shortcut a lenghty and costly legal battle to remedy our situation.
There is currently a Senate Inquiry underway into aspects of the Franchising Industry, and LPOs sit snuggly into that Industry.
LPOG successfully raised our issues in 2013 with Senators Boswell and Xenophon. This resulted in the 2013-14 Senate Inquiry which went on for 9 months, and is the reason that we have collectively enjoyed a pay increase since that time of over $150m.
Please continue reading under for extracts of this Senate Inquiry
Its up to you to decide where you want to go.
Extracts from the Performance, importance and role of Australia Post in Australian communities and its operations in relation to licensed post offices Senate Inquiry……
When the final consensus report was tabled by the Chair, Senator Anne Ruston, many of the members of the Senate Committee rose to take note of the report and make personal comments. These comments are forever recorded in Hansard, but make for interesting reading for POAAL members. Some excerpts are posted below.
Senator URQUHART (Tasmania—Deputy Opposition Whip in the Senate) (17:35):The evidence presented by the licensed post offices demonstrates that the relationship between Australia Post and its licensees is particularly dysfunctional. LPOs and community postal agencies account for a clear majority of the national postal network and cover nearly all of rural and regional Australia. As senators would be aware, the local post office is often the last institution in many towns across the country. Unfortunately, evidence to the inquiry was quite damning of the conduct and representative skills of the current sole accredited association, the Post Office Agents Association Limited. POAAL is the only association accredited by Australia Post under the Licensed Post Office Agreement.
Over the past few years, another organisation has been formed and the evidence presented by the LPO Group to the committee has demonstrated that in its future efforts to be more consultative Australia Post should treat this association on the same terms as POAAL. As such, the committee is recommending that the definition of 'association' in the LPO agreement be amended to include, in addition to POAAL, other licensee-representative groups, but not limited to the LPO Group.
I commend the leadership and tenacity of Angela Cramp and Andrew Hirst, from the LPO Group, who are in the gallery today. Throughout the course of this inquiry they have represented their members with vigour, honesty and consistency. I hope the frustrations you have outlined to me and the committee over the past year begin to be resolved by the government and Australia Post.
Senator XENOPHON (South Australia) (17:55): I concur with the comments made by my colleagues Senators Ruston, Urquhart, Whish-Wilson and O'Sullivan. This is an issue that goes beyond politics. The viability of post offices around this country and, in particular, the viability of almost 3,000 licensed post offices is at stake and, with that, a very key part of community infrastructure. We cannot afford to ignore this issue. Furthermore, the government must act on the recommendations made by this committee. These were non-partisan recommendations. This was a unanimous report. I commend the former chair, Senator Williams, and the current chair, Senator Ruston, who did a terrific job in bringing this together. Senator Urquhart from the opposition, Senator Whish-Wilson and Senator O'Sullivan all played very valuable roles in this inquiry. Again, I thank Bozzie, former senator Ron Boswell, for the driving role he played in this.
Senator O'Sullivan: It's a disgrace!
Senator XENOPHON: Senator O'Sullivan said, 'It's a disgrace.' He is a very kind man. Mr Ian Kerr, the head of POAAL, was one of the most underwhelming and hapless witnesses I have ever seen in my six years in this Senate. He was hopeless, and I have got to say that he does not reflect well on his organisation. They did not provide documents in response to the reasonable requests that were driven by Senator O'Sullivan. I would strongly suggest to anyone listening, who is a post office owner or post office licensee and a member of POAAL, to consider seriously leaving that organisation and joining the rival LPO group who do a much better job in advocating for their members. Mr Kerr needs to stand judged for the way that he simply ignored the committee and treated the committee in a way that verged on contempt.
Senator WILLIAMS (New South Wales) (18:22): I want to make some comments in relation to POAAL. POAAL is the organisation that supposedly represents the licensed post offices. Now another group has broken out—the LPOGroup, the licensed post offices group. I will quote from the committee's report:
While the committee considers that POAAL appears to have a somewhat difficult negotiating position, there are other matters which raise questions in the committee's mind as to its competence. The committee notes that, in some instances, the evidence provided by POAAL was less than satisfactory. Mr Kerr, CEO of POAAL, appeared to lack an in depth knowledge of POAAL's membership, the structure of its subsidiary company, POAAL Services Ltd, and was less than helpful to the committee in relation to some matters it wished to pursue.
We are talking about Mr Kerr, the CEO. He is probably paid a lot of money. It continues:
In its dealings with licensees, POAAL also showed a lack of sound administrative practices. For example, the committee received evidence that letters addressed to POAAL at its post office box were returned to the sender as they had remained uncollected. Indeed, one of the committee's letters sent to POAAL suffered this fate.
So here we have POAAL and Mr Kerr, running this office and being paid money by the licensed post offices to represent them, and they do not even accept the mail but return it to the sender. The report continues:
The committee also sought information in relation to POAAL's financial statements. The committee considered that this information was important to its inquiry as POAAL represents LPOs not only in direct negotiations with Australia Post but also during meetings with the responsible Minister.
In relation to the information sought by the committee, POAAL had four opportunities to provide the information the committee requested following the March 2014 hearing. While the committee eventually received a response in relation to POAAL's 2012–13 financial statements, no other information was forthcoming. The committee considered the use of its powers to call for documents and persons. Ultimately, the committee agreed not to use these powers as it considered that it already had sufficient evidence that called into question the effectiveness of POAAL as an organisation advocating on behalf of licensees.
Those are pretty damning words. I think Mr Kerr was probably one of the worst witnesses I have ever seen in a Senate hearing in the six years that I have been here. I thought his arrogance was terrible. I thought he had no understanding of the people he represented, and consequently those licensed post offices have been going downhill financially for many years—probably as a direct result of Mr Kerr and his failure to represent them properly and fight their case to get a fair deal for the licensed post offices.
I am not going to speak for much longer. I would just like to say: the best thing Mr Kerr could do for POAAL would be to resign his position; put someone in there who is competent, who will represent the licensed post offices properly. This is a big and important issue. It is also a very difficult issue when we know that Australia Post, which is owned by every Australian, has to pay these licensed post offices more money. That may lead to a worse bottom line for Australia Post. But we have to have our post offices remain financially afloat. They are the heart of our country towns, especially where some 1,600 licensed post offices are based in rural and remote areas. Mr Kerr, you did yourself no favours. You certainly did not gain any credibility with the committee, in my opinion, when I chaired your presence. As I said: the best thing you could do would be to find yourself another job.
Senator BILYK (Tasmania—Deputy Opposition Whip in the Senate) (18:28): I am extremely pleased that recommendation 11 recommends that the definition of 'association' in the LPO agreement be amended to include the LPO Group. Senator Williams referred to the organisation that allegedly is representing the licensed post offices and the concerns that everyone on the committee had with regard to that. And, once again, I would endorse his comments in that regard. The Licensed Post Office Group have done an excellent job in informing the committee and advocating on behalf of their members, and I hope this recommendation, along with the other recommendations of the committee, is adopted with alacrity. I seek leave to continue my remarks.