Further strikes by Post Office workers are planned for Friday after talks failed between Post Office management and the Communication Workers Union. Services were previously disrupted over the Easter holidays in protest against the planned closure or franchisement of 76 Crown branches and a pay freeze since April 2011.
The Post Office currently run around 380 Crown branches – offices directly under Post Office management as opposed to those found in village stores or retail shops – but report that the service is costing the company approximately £40m a year, much of which is currently being subsidised with public money. Crown branches make up one-fifth of the Post Office’s business, according to CWU, but the Post Office insists that it is committed to remaining a key part of UK high streets and that their current modernisation plan will ensure this happens.
The plan involves closing 76 Crown branches, cutting jobs by around 800, and investing heavily in the remaining branches is hoped to update and expand services in the remaining 300 Crown branches and sub-post offices or franchises. But the CWU and Post Office employees are unhappy with the proposals. Dave Ward, CWU deputy general secretary, said: “Post Office management’s behaviour is astonishing. They appear to have no regard for their Crown office staff who voted by nine to one to reject the company’s pay offer which is linked to the loss of 76 Crown offices.
“Their flawed plans to close or franchise 76 offices are meeting robust opposition in communities across the country and our members remain determined to secure a fair deal on job security and pay.”
The Post Office had offered a series of cash payments of up to £3,400 to be paid before April 2015, but voted to decline the offer and strike over the Easter period. Talks have now once again broken down with further strike action planned. Kevin Gilliland, network and sales director at the Post Office, said: “The CWU is ignoring the harsh commercial realities being faced by the Post Office and other retailers across the UK.” He goes on to say, “For 70 of our Crown branches – less than 1% of our network – we will be looking to partner with a suitable retailer, whilst at the same time we will invest £70m in the remaining 300 Crown branches to modernise and grow services to ensure their long-term viability.”