Local Labour Party activists and councillors have joined forces with the Communication Workers’ Union to defend Royal Mail Crown Offices, particularly the Post Office in Southend High Street, from further privatisation.
Labour Politicians and CWU campaigners held a protest outside the Southend High Street Post Office, already located inside WH Smith, and collected signatures from the public on a petition against the plans to further franchise the store and more than 70 others across the country.
The Southend Post Office was moved inside WH Smith in 2017 meaning the Post Office now shares the site and overheads with WH Smith but staff remained employed by the Post Office and services were not affected. Plans to franchise the offices mean that WH Smith will employ staff rather than the Post Office and campaigners argue that it will lead to lower pay and conditions as well as a threat to services as the Post Offices will effectively be privatised. Concerns have also been raised about what would happen to Post Office services if, like other high street retailers, the WH Smith shop were to close.
Ashley Dalton, Labour’s candidate for Rochford and Southend East said: “The Post Office, once the centre of our communities, is being relegated to the back of a shop and terms and conditions for workers are being eroded. The Post Office is a great British institution and the Tory policy of privatisation of public services is an attack on that tradition as well as an affront to experienced skilled Post Office staff. The Royal Mail has opened a public consultation but we have to wonder how genuine this is as new post office jobs on lower wages are already being advertised by WH Smith”.
Cllr Ian Gilbert, Leader of the Labour Group on Southend Council commented: “The proposed franchising of Crown Post Offices to WH Smith is dressed up as a way of keeping Post Offices on the high street but our fear is it will lead to a reduction in services, experienced staff leaving the service and new recruits offered lower wages and worse conditions. Labour is backing the CWU in its opposition to further franchises of Royal Mail Post offices and we will continue to fight to protect our public services from attack by this Tory government.”
To sign the petition or send your views to our local Southend MPs (sadly both Conservatives) James Duddridge for Rochford & Southend East and Sir David Amess for Southend West please see the CWU’s ‘Save Our Post Office’ website.