Scores of post office workers across the West walked out from behind their counters on Saturday in protest at a programme of closing town centre post offices and moving them to supermarkets.
The CWU union organised the day of strike action, which included a 90-minute picket in the morning, and said it was a ‘resounding success’, with ‘strong support’ for the action.
The Post Office management said the dispute was not needed as the future of the offices was in ‘partnership’ with other retailers.
Across the region, Crown Post Offices are being closed and post office counters installed in nearby supermarkets, often without much fuss.
But in Bradford on Avon, in Wiltshire, local businesses have protested at the closure of the main town centre Post Office – which has a gold Olympic post box outside, courtesy of kayaker Ed McKeever – and its switch to the back of a Budgen’s store down a side street nearby.
In Melksham, the Crown Post Office was closed on Saturday as workers went on strike. Andy Furey, the CWU national official leading the strike action, said the issue was about a nationwide raft of closures, and the transfer to a ‘franchise’ which would damage the quality of service.
“We hope the Post Office listens to the concerns of their staff,” he said. “They can avoid further disruption by agreeing to negotiations to resolve this dispute.”
The Post Office bosses said that many post offices, like the one in Corsham, Wiltshire, which had been hit by the strike, had remained open. “It’s ironic that the Post Office has been trying to say 100 offices remained open today when by their own plans they want to lose 76 Crown offices,” said Mr Furey. “That’s 20 per cent of the network and would hit communities badly. We won’t let these go without a fight and ask again for the Post Office to meet us to resolve this.”
A strike ballot earlier last month saw a vote of 88 per cent in favour of action, and an estimated 4,000 Post Office staff walked out on Saturday.
“The patience and loyalty of our Post Office members has been abused by Post Office management,” said CWU’s deputy general secretary, Dave Ward. “This dispute is about protecting jobs and services as well as securing a fair pay increase for our members.”
The CWU said a pay rise awarded to counter staff a year ago still has not materialised.
“We are committed to keeping a Post Office branch on High Streets such as Melksham,” said Kevin Gilliland, the network director for the Post Office. “The best way for us to do this is to partner with a retailer. This is not a closure plan.”