The future status of Croydon’s two Crown Post Offices and one in Sutton remain in doubt according to union officials, as plans to close or franchise offices continue to be pushed through.
Similar Post Offices in nearby Sydenham and Beckenham have recently been added to a list of 80 previously publicly owned offices which face closure or, as one trade unionist put it, “being pushed into a WH Smith or Spar”.
The Post Office is “on the path to extinction”, according to the Communications Workers’ Union this week. “The situation’s changing almost daily,” a CWU spokesman told Inside Croydon. “New offices are being added to the list for franchising or closure all the time. We don’t know where will be next.”
Croydon residents have already seen their postal services seriously down-graded since the closing of the Royal Mail collections office next to East Croydon Station, with the building being sold off. Instead of having the collections office in the centre of Croydon, conveniently placed for public transport, anyone needing to collect an undelivered item now has to visit a depot at Factory Lane.
Crown Post Offices are directly operated by the Post Office, so named because they are owned by the state, and have been seen as ripe for spinning off in franchises and some times capitalising on the property value. The number of Post Offices affected is already double what the Government announced at the beginning of this year. It is estimated that around 800 jobs have been lost by the closures and franchising of the functions.Post Office workers were involved in a series of strikes in protest against the franchising of Crown Post Offices in 2013. WH Smith now operates 109 Post Office outlets in its stores, about half of which are former crown outlets. Typically, such transfers involve closing the branch, paying existing staff to leave (using public money to fund the redundancy settlement), and for the high street retailer to hire new staff, often in part-time minimum wage roles.
Members of the CWU have this month voted overwhelmingly in favour of strike action following a series of announcements of cuts to jobs, services and staff pensions.
“Staff in the Post Office face 2,000 job losses this year, the closure of their pension scheme and a strategy of slash and burn from the board of the company. The Post Office is at crisis point and the government has to step in,” Dave Ward, the CWU general secretary, said.
“The government separated the Post Office from Royal Mail and declared it would be safe in public hands. In reality, we have seen public funding being withdrawn, falling from £210 million in 2013 to £80 million this year, and a complete failure from the board to grow its revenues to make up for this. Staff and customers are the ones who are paying the cost.”
Ward added that the Government cannot “… simply stand by as a national institution goes under. Just as we have seen with Tata Steel, this is another clear example of the Government having no plan whatsoever to stand up for British industry.”
After an 83 per cent vote in favour of strike action by his union, Terry Pullinger, the CWU’s deputy general secretary, said, “No one should underestimate our determination to ensure that this is not another British institution which is only spoken about in an historical context. It is and must remain part of this country’s future infrastructure.”
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