Postal workers have voted by over 90% to strike in a dispute over pay and job losses.
The workers, who work behind counters at Britain’s 373 “Crown” Post Offices (larger PO branches), have not been balloted since 2007. Post Office Ltd, owned by Royal Mail, has refused to consider a pay increase for counter staff, despite making increased profits of £72 million last year, and giving managers a 2.25% pay rise and a 21% rise for directors. Management is also refusing to renew a guarantee, valid until April 2011, that no further branches will be closed.
Dave Ward, the deputy general secretary of the Communication Workers’ Union (CWU), which organises Post Office staff, said “Post Office workers have sent a clear message to management in this ballot that they are not prepared to take double standards when it comes to pay. However, this ballot is about more than pay; it is the job security of our members and the future of the Crown office network which is also at stake.”
Around 4,000 workers are employed by the Crown network, which make up the majority of larger Post Office sites, including most high-street branches. 66% of CWU members in the network turned out to vote in the ballot, which saw only 172 workers voting against strike action.
Strikes could begin at the end of March, and while they would not initially affect the rest of the Post Office network or delivery services, they would effectively close down nearly 400 of the UK’s busiest and most frequently used Post Offices.
With the Coalition already having announced plans to part-privatise Royal Mail, the threat of further Post Office closures and consequent job losses is very real indeed. This dispute represents a frontline battle not just for postal workers but for the entire public sector and the notion of publicly-owned services in the UK.
Organising active solidarity must be an urgent priority for the labour movement.