UK post office staff to strike in Christmas hours row

Workers in hundreds of Post Offices across the UK are to strike on Christmas Eve in a row over opening hours, it was announced today.

Managers will fill in for counter staff at 294 crown offices when the walkout starts at 12.30pm.

The Royal Mail said it wanted to keep open its 555 crown offices until 4pm to give people more time to collect pensions and child benefits.

But the Communication Workers Union said there was no need to keep open offices beyond the traditional 12.30pm closing time.

National officer Andy Furey said: “The Post Office's position is both intransigent and illogical. There is no need to keep offices open until 4pm on Christmas Eve and to suggest otherwise is absurd.

“Our members work tirelessly in the run-up to Christmas to provide an excellent service, and to try and force them to work at a time when they want to be with their family and friends is insulting. What sort of festive message is that?

“The 12.30pm finish has been in place for decades. The public are used to it and employees deserve it. We have exhausted every single avenue to avoid industrial action, but the Post Office's dogmatic stance has left the union with no other option.”

David Mills, chief executive of the Post Office, said: “The call for strike action is unnecessary and unjustified.

“Around two million customers, who rely solely on the Post Office for access to their cash, are dependent on our network being open on Christmas Eve so that they can obtain their benefit payments and have cash over the following four-day Christmas holiday.

“The elderly and the disabled are among the groups which most rely on the Post Office. We are determined to do everything possible to ensure our customers can visit our branches until 4pm on Christmas Eve.”

Mr Mills said it was “entirely reasonable” to expect staff to work a full day, or most of it, on Christmas Eve as they were paid until the end of their scheduled duty.

Royal Mail press release:
Post Office puts customers first on Christmas Eve
[21/12/2004]
The Post Office® pledged today to put customers first and deploy management volunteers to provide services in its directly managed branches following a call by the Communication Workers Union for strike action on the afternoon of Christmas Eve in 294 offices, just under 2% of the overall network.

David Mills, Chief Executive of Post Office Ltd, said: “The call for strike action is unnecessary and unjustified.

“Around two million customers, who rely solely on the Post Office for access to their cash, are dependent on our network being open on Christmas Eve so that they can obtain their benefit payments and have cash over the following four-day Christmas holiday. The elderly and the disabled are among the groups which most rely on the Post Office. We are determined to do everything possible to ensure our customers can visit our branches until 4pm on Christmas Eve.

“Our people are paid until the end of the scheduled duty on Christmas Eve, as on other working days, and this can be later than 5.30pm. It’s entirely reasonable to expect them to work a full day, or for most of the day, on Christmas Eve.

“We’ve set a sensible closing time of 4pm in line with many other retailers and financial services outlets, because customers should be able to access their banking services, and in particular the Post Office Card Account which pays out benefits, until well into this crucial afternoon,” said Mr Mills.

Mr Mills stressed that every branch in the 15,300-strong nationwide network would be open on Christmas Eve until 12.30pm and if the strike went ahead, it would affect less that 2% of branches as the huge majority of branches, which are run by subpostmasters and mistresses, would remain open for normal hours on Christmas Eve afternoon.

Mr Mills said: “The directly managed branches in our network should be at the forefront of customer service, not involved in strike action.

“We urge the union to drop their planned strike action and join us in ensuring our customers have access to their money on this crucial day.”

Mr Mills asked customers to check with their local branch, or telephone 0845 7 22 33 44 for information on finding their nearest available branch on Christmas Eve.

Ends
Issued by Post Office Ltd.
148 Old Street
London
EC1V 9HQ
www.postoffice.co.uk

Notes to editors:
In previous years, customers have been able to collect double benefit payments during the week before Christmas. However, this year, as Post Office branches will be closed on Christmas Day, Boxing Day and the two public holidays, December 27 and 28, around 2 million customers Post Office Card Account customers who would normally collect their benefits on those days will either have to collect the money on Christmas Eve (Friday), or wait until the following Wednesday, December 29. This is why Post Office Ltd believes it is reasonable to ask people to work until 4pm on Christmas Eve, so that customers can access our services, especially benefit payments.

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