Post Office workers open five days of action against threats
CROWN Post Office staff kicked off five days of strikes yesterday in a bid to stamp out bosses’ plans to flog off the network, close branches and attack workers’ pensions and job security.
Strikers — complete with a reindeer called Bubbles — demonstrated outside the Business Department, ultimately responsible for the remaining network of 11,500 post offices.
Ministers want to privatise the 300 Crown offices — the biggest branches based in major towns and cities — following the ideological sale of the Royal Mail for £1 billion under its value.
Hundreds of Post Offices have already been handed to high street businesses, mainly WH Smiths.
The government has also turned its sights on the Post Office staff’s pension scheme. Although the scheme has a £100 million surplus, it is to be abolished and replaced by one which would be dependent on the fluctuations of the stock market.
The Communication Workers Union (CWU) offered to suspend this week’s strikes to negotiate a settlement to the dispute over January and February.
But stubborn bosses demanded that any negotiations would be confined to a single day in the new year.
CWU general secretary Dave Ward gave an impassioned speech at the protest outside the department, proposing a sustainable future for the network through establishment of a “Post Bank.”
He accused the Post Office of conducting a “phoney” consultation which ends tomorrow, saying: “We offered to suspend this strike action and all we wanted in exchange was an agreed agenda for talks.
“We wanted them to suspend any further announcements while consultations and the talks were going on.
“I am now saying that they are going to announce further high street closures in January.”
He accused the Business Department of being “a sham” intent only on privatising the network under the guise of “franchising” it to privateers.
“Isn’t it now time in Britain today that we had a proper debate about how you grow and how you support industry instead of paying highly over-paid executives who never grow anything, who only ever manage to deprive industries and somehow manage to spin it that they are successful?”
He said establishment of a Post Bank could mean investment in developments such as social housing, and could give access to banking to people currently denied it.
“Anywhere else in Europe they would be taking that seriously. It is successful in France where it made over £1bn last year.
“We are here to say to the public: ‘Get behind this campaign.’ We are not going anywhere. We are going to fight for a different future, a sustainable future, for the Post Office, our members and our members’ jobs.”
Staff responsible for delivering materials to Post Offices and collecting revenues are to strike on Thursday and Friday.