More than 100 Post Offices will close today as nearly 2,000 workers are set to strike in a row over an ‘exceptionally poor’ pay rise as unions demand more amid a general cost-of-living crisis.
The 114 Crown Post Offices will shut for a 24-hour period, with no cash deliveries or collections from the 11,500 sub-post offices around the UK.
Members of the Communication Workers Union (CWU) are angry over a pay freeze in 2021-22 and a ‘degrading’ 2% rise in 2022-23, and voted overwhelmingly in favour of industrial action in April.
CWU official Andy Furey raged that responsibility for the first national strike for ‘a number of years’ lies ‘100 percent’ with Post Office senior management, calling the pay rise ‘an insult’.
He added: ‘They have told us that they’re freezing pay in keeping with official Government and public-sector pay policy. But that’s an outrageous and dishonest excuse as the Government’s austerity measures do not apply to the Post Office.
‘Despite this union’s best attempts to avoid strike action, the Post Office has displayed no interest whatsoever in meaningful negotiations.
‘As such, workers have delivered an overwhelming mandate for strike action.
‘The current offer of a mere 2% pay rise over two years is nothing short of an insult to these key workers who provided exemplary services to this nation during the pandemic.
‘As the cost-of-living crisis mounts, working people across the country are facing stark realities.
‘This isn’t any less true of Post Office employees, who deserve far better than the degrading offer currently on the table. Post Office management need to understand that by undervaluing these workers, they have provoked real anger across the country.
‘We urge them to get round the table with us and reach a decent, fair agreement that shows respect for Britain’s key workers who kept post offices open for society during the pandemic.’
The CWU said its members voted by 97.3% on a 70.2% turnout to take strike action.
Post Office Postal Assistants – a large part of the workforce – currently earn less than £24,000 per year, the CWU said. If management strictly followed government policy, these workers would have received a wage increase of at least £250, they added.
CWU Postal Executive member Mole Meade told News Line: ‘All told, about 1,700 CWU members are taking 24-hour strike action. When we started to ballot for action to secure last year’s pay rise, the Post Office offered us nothing. Since then they have come back and offered us 2% for this year, which is another insult.
‘When you take five-eighths of that away, which is the NI increase, it means that some of the lowest paid key workers are being offered just 6p an hour.’
Mr Meade went on: ‘The 97.3% strike vote on a 72% return shows that Post Office management are completely out of touch. If they think they can ride roughshod over our members they can think again and if they carry on ignoring us we will take further action.’
The dispute involves counter staff, as well as those in clerical, administration and call centres.
The CWU said all so-called crown post offices will be affected by the walkout as well as smaller sub-post offices.
A Post Office spokesperson said: ‘We have been notified by the CWU that they have instructed their members to take strike action on Tuesday May 3.
‘We want to assure our customers that the vast majority of our 11,500 branches are unaffected by this decision and will remain open throughout the day.’