The National Federation of Retail Newsagents is “operating within extreme financial constraints” and is changing the employment terms and conditions of its head office staff to cut costs.

In a letter to staff seen by The Grocer, the federation, which is the main trade association for newsagents and has 16,500 members, asked staff to agree to changes to sick pay, annual leave and working hours.

“The federation is currently operating within extreme financial constraints and this cannot be sustained at current levels,” NFRN CEO Paul Baxter wrote in the letter. “Different options have been considered to make the necessary improvements to the federation’s financial position, including reducing the payroll or reducing headcount. However, the federation has been looking at a variety of ways to avoid the need to consider these measures.”

As part of the changes, the NFRN wants staff to increase their working hours from 35 to 40 hours a week - including Saturdays. It also wants to limit sick pay to eight weeks’ full pay for staff who have worked at the federation for more than three years. Previously, staff who had worked there between five and 10 years got three months’ full pay, and those over 10 years got six months’.

Staff are being asked to agree to the changes on a “voluntary basis”, but the letter warns: “If you do not agree to the changes, the federation will undertake a consultation. One of the options following on from the consultation if agreement cannot be reached may be to give notice to terminate your existing contract and offer re-engagement on a new contract with the revised terms.”

Baxter told The Grocer it was not NFRN policy to discuss staff terms with third parties, but added: “We have a healthy membership base and we are actively recruiting for retail development managers and other staff.”