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Friday, 25 July 2014

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Cumbria postal workers walk out in half-day strike

Postal workers in Penrith and Whitehaven walked out in protest against plans that they say would “decimate” the service.

Post Office strike photo
Staff from the Whitehaven Post Office collect signatures opposing the franchising of Crown Post Offices. From left, Jacqueline Woodburn, Ann Cowen, union rep Neil Barry, Shona Reid and Lorraine Birkett

Members of staff from the Lowther Street Post Office at Whitehaven and at Penrith took part in a half-day strike yesterday in a dispute over the future of the Crown Post office branches.

The Communication Workers’ Union (CWU) called the strike in 373 Crown Post Offices – those run by the Post Office, rather than franchisees – to protest plans to close six branches and franchise out 70 others.

Carlisle and Workington – which are not Crown offices – were unaffected.

Neil Barry, the CWU representative for the North West, said selling off the Crown network would result in a reduction in services, and an uncertain future for staff.

He said they were long-established services and part of the community.

“The service would be decimated if they were privatised,” he said. “The Post Office has handpicked these branches – and the others it plans to franchise out – and has offered no explanation on why. We deserve better.”

Penrith and Whitehaven are among those earmarked for transfer to a franchisee.

The CWU is also seeking a pay rise for staff who, it says, have not had an increase since April 2011. Members voted by almost nine to one in favour of strike action.

The Post Office said the strike action would not alter its modernisation plans, adding that the Crown network is losing £40million a year. It plans to invest £70m to modernise the remaining Crown branches.

Kevin Gilliland, network and sales director, said: “We are proposing to partner 70 branches with suitable retailers. These branches are not closing.

“Any move to a retailer’s premises would offer access to the same range of Post Office products and high levels of customer service in a new modern branch.”

A further demonstration is planned in Whitehaven on Saturday May 18 – in a location to be announced – at which the CWU is inviting Copeland’s MP and councillors to support the campaign.

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