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30 March 2013, 08:21
Thousands of Post Office staff have staged a strike over jobs, pay and branch closures.
Around 370 Crown Post Offices - larger branches, usually based in town centres - were due to be affected by the action on Easter Saturday 30 March 2013, including those in Kettering, Wellingborough, Stevenage and Central Milton Keynes.
The industrial action was in protest at plans to close or franchise 70 branches.
The CWU said hundreds of jobs will be affected by the proposals, which it warned would cause further problems for high streets already suffering from shop closures.
The CWU added that staff had not received a pay rise for two years.
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% 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.''
Kevin Gilliland, network and sales director at the Post Office, said: "We regret any disruption to services the CWU's call for strike action may cause to customers. Crown branches are currently losing £40 million per year and this is being subsidised by public money. This cannot continue.
"The Post Office is transforming its network to improve customer experience and in turn bring in new business. We are committed to the Post Office remaining a key part of UK high streets and our plans ensure this will happen.
"They mean that for 70 of our Crown branches - less than 1% of our network - we will be looking to partner with a suitable retailer, whilst at the same time we will invest £70 million in the remaining 300 Crown branches to modernise and grow services to ensure their long-term viability.
"Our pay offer remains unchanged. We want to make the first payment of up to £1,400 as quickly as possible. The unrealistic demands and call for strike action being made by the CWU will only delay how quickly this will be received into our people's pay packets.''
The union pointed out that Crown offices handle 20% of all Post Office business.
Assistant secretary Andy Furey said a meeting at the conciliation service Acas failed to break the deadlock, adding: "Our members are steadfast in their conviction that the Crown network is valuable for local communities.''
The union said it was receiving strong public support for its campaign, with petitions circulating in areas affected by the proposals.