Crown Post Office staff stage second 24-hour strike

CWU member dressed as Grim Reaper Image copyright CWU
Image caption Protesters took the strike to the Post Office headquarters in London

Thousands of staff at Crown Post Offices have gone on a fresh strike in a dispute over jobs, pensions and branch closures.

Members of the Communication Workers Union and Unite began their 24-hour walkout at 03:00 GMT on Monday.

It is the second strike in two months and unions said there could be further industrial action before Christmas.

The latest strike affects larger branches, but the Post Office said most of its network would not close.

The two unions estimated that more than 3,000 workers would take part in Monday's strike across 300 branches - although the final turnout has not been confirmed.

The Post Office said about 80 of its branches had been forced to close.

'Willing to talk'

The action is focused on Crown Post Offices - which are the larger branches usually located in high streets - and workers are also holding a rally at Post Office Headquarters in central London.

Speaking at the rally, Brian Scott, Unite union officer for the Post Office, said members would not be afraid to walk out again if needed.

He told the BBC: "We are hoping the Post Office sees sense and gets around the table, but they can't reject everything we put forward.

"It may well be that there has to be other action in the run-up to Christmas, but we are willing to talk."

Crown Post Office, administration and supply chain workers are involved in the dispute about the closure of the final salary pension scheme, job losses and the franchising of Crown Post Offices.

Why the strike?

Image copyright @resistunite
Image caption Members of two unions marched across Westminster Bridge in protest against job cuts

In April 2016, the Post Office announced plans to transfer up to 61 branches into WH Smith stores over the following year.

It said the move was part of a 10-year plan to cut costs and save cash, and would act as a way of "safeguarding the future of the network."

But the CWU said it faced up to 2,000 job losses as a result and it would lead to the closure of its pension scheme.

In August, over half of the union's 3,500 members voted in a strike ballot, with 83% backing the plans.

The first 24-hour walk-out took place on 15 September and the second on 31 October.

Communication Workers Union general secretary Dave Ward said: "We have had great support from our members and the public on today's strike.

"We are now calling upon the government and the company to bring all stake holders together to thrash out a new future for the Post Office that is more than a glorified closure programme."

The Post Office said moving post office services into retail outlets means longer opening hours.

Speaking before the strike, Kevin Gilliland, the Post Office's network and sales director, said: "The Post Office wants to reach a constructive way forward through talking with our unions.

"More than 99% of people in the UK live within three miles of a Post Office branch, but we must make changes to safeguard that level of service for future generations.

"The Post Office is committed to keeping its branches at the heart of communities. But we must also respond to changing customer needs."

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