Postal workers on strike today have said bosses are putting the region’s embattled high streets under further pressure by closing branches.
Thousands of staff at so-called Crown Post Offices – generally main high street branches – are walking out in a row over jobs, pay and closures.
The strike comes as teachers yesterday also vowed to stage mass walkouts in the summer as union discontent with the Government grows.
Those postal workers on picket lines this cold morning will be grateful for the braziers – and a chill is also increasingly descending on relations with Post Office bosses.
Members of the Communication Workers Union (CWU) in around 370 Crown offices will walk out in protest at plans to close or franchise 70 sites.
The union said hundreds of jobs will be affected by the proposals, which it warned could cause further problems for struggling high streets already suffering from shop closures.
Union leaders added that staff had not received a pay rise for two years.
The focus of protests in the West today will be at Melksham, where the Wiltshire town’s Crown branch faces closure, with workers having to move to a nearby supermarket.
And a similar move in a nearby town is also sparking protests, with more than a thousand people and the area’s MP joining calls for Post Office bosses to change their minds.
The latest wave of changes to post offices affects much of the West, with a further rationalisation to add to a spate of closures and downgrades over previous years.
And in nearby Bradford-on-Avon, local MP Duncan Hames has joined a campaign to stop the post office in The Shambles, right in the centre of town, closing and moving to be based inside a Budgens convenience store in nearby Kingston Road.
But the Post Office said both changes will happen, with the Bradford one moving in early May.
The Post Office said Crown branches were losing £40 million a year and accused the union of ignoring the “harsh realities” the company faces.
Dave Ward, the CWU’s deputy general secretary, said: “Our post office members are standing up against destructive plans which would slash 20 per cent of the Crown network and are simply asking for fair treatment and job security.
“The Post Office’s plans are short-sighted and would rob the network of the most productive offices while simultaneously putting hundreds of jobs at risk and potentially damaging local economies. We’d like to see a better vision for a successful network which maintains services in the heart of communities alongside quality jobs.
“We’re confident this could be achieved if Post Office management would agree to negotiations.”
At the start of the National Union of Teachers’ annual conference in Liverpool yesterday, general secretary Christine Blower saying the NUT was on a collision course with the Government, with schools across the country set to be hit by walkouts in the next few months.