CWU members strike against office closures and pension cuts

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Strikers picketing outside St John's Centre Post Office in Leeds

Strikers picketing outside St John’s Centre Post Office in Leeds

After headlines describing post office strikers as bringing ‘Christmas Misery’ or ‘Ruin’, striking Post Office workers were in an angry mood outside St John’s Centre Post Office in Leeds.

Iain Dalton, Leeds Socialist Party

A real anger existed at the destruction of the Crown Post Office network which has been going on for around a decade, with Post Offices in major cities now found in other shops such as WH Smiths and Wilko’s, some even stuffed out of the way in basements.

Strikers that I spoke to saw this as symptomatic of the direction society is being taken, “it started almost 40 years ago when Thatcher got in, and it carried on under Blair, he was a capitalist too.”

Parallels were drawn with the steel industry, the railways and other areas that were publicly owned, which have now either been privatised, closed down or both. Several strikers told me they’d voted ‘for Brexit’ because they wanted a change to this, whilst another commented that many of the areas which had a majority leave vote had seen whole industries destroyed.

Strikers worried about their own futures too. The Post Office wants to close their defined benefit pension scheme and transfer it to a defined contribution scheme, potentially losing workers thousands. Yet research commissioned by the CWU said the pension scheme was still viable.

Similarly, there was worry about what jobs would remain as more Crown Post Offices are closed and transfered into other shops. Whilst some staff have transfered, their jobs are only guaranteed for a year on two, meanwhile new starters fare much worse. “They’re on zero hour contracts, and on minimum wage,” I was told.

Strikers also made reference to other strikes taking place amongst workers on Southern Rail, amongst airport baggage handlers and others. As one put it “none of us that are striking are asking for more money, we just want to defend out jobs and terms and conditions – it says a lot that they’re not prepared to give us that.”