Third strike at Post Office is scheduled for Monday

Closure protests outside Hastings Post Office
Closure protests outside Hastings Post Office

STAFF at Hastings’ town centre post office are planning another half-day strike on Monday (April 29).

The latest decision comes after around 15 workers at the Cambridge Road branch walked out from 2.30pm on Friday as part of a national dispute over changes the Post Office wants to introduce.

The strike action affected all Crown branches, those directly owned by the Post Office.

The Communication Workers Union (CWU) opposes Post Office plans to close or franchise more than 70 Crown offices. The union also wants to secure a fair pay increase for counter staff who have had no pay rise since April 2011. Several petitions have attracted thousands of signatures in protest over the feared closure of the Cambridge Road branch.

Staff there staged a walk-out on March 29 and Monday’s strike is set to start from 1pm.

Mole Meade, CWU area representative for the south east, said Friday’s industrial action went ‘really well’ and attracted public support. Campaigners also held a street stall in the town centre to get more signatures on petitions.

Paul Carpenter, the CWU’s south east regional secretary, said: “Hastings Post Office plays such an important role in the local economy and community. “We’ve been overwhelmed by the support that residents of all walks of life have shown. It’s clear that the franchise plans are deeply unpopular and we want the Post Office to re-think and consider alternatives to keep Hastings Crown Post Office open.”

A public meeting is also being held on Monday from 6pm at the White Rock Hotel to debate the issue. Speakers include Andy Furey, CWU assistant secretary, Sarah Owen, Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Hastings and Jeremy Birch, leader of Hastings Borough Council. Invitations have also been extended to Hastings MP Amber Rudd and the Post Office.

Bosses from the Post Office have criticised the recent strikes.

Kevin Gilliland, network and sales director at the Post Office, said: “We want to keep Post Office branches on high streets across the UK. We are investing £70 million in 300 Crown branches and are proposing to partner 70 branches with suitable retailers.”

He stressed there were no plans to close any of the 70 Crown branches affected by current proposals.

Mr Gilliand added: “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. The CWU is in denial of the need for us to modernise our Crown network. It is currently losing £40 million a year of public money. There is no room for manoeuvre and further strike action will only cause needless disruption to customers.”

The Post Office said 10,000 branches already operate through a franchise agreement with a retailer, such as WH Smith.