Union sounds alarm over threat to Post Office
Union negotiators have warned Post Office chiefs that their "appalling" proposals on pay, jobs and the future of the network risk provoking national strike action.
CWU national officer for Post Office workers Andy Furey explained: "Our hard-working crown members were kept waiting since April 2012 for their annual pay rise, but when the offer finally came it was the most appalling pay proposal I have seen in 20 years of being on the union's executive."
"Paula Vennells, Post Office chief executive, had previously indicated that the company was planning not to award any consolidated pensionable pay increase for the next three years," Andy continued, adding: "And this was what happened when they finally agreed to meet us over pay at the end of January."
At that meeting, Post Office tabled an offer of unconsolidated but fully taxable payments of £1,400 gross for 2012/13, £1,000 gross from this April and a further £1,000 gross up to the end of March 2015.
"Even with no strings attached this proposal would have been unacceptable," explains Andy - "It is union policy to achieve consolidated, pensionable pay increases and not lump-sum alternatives, which effectively dial down the value of members' total pay and pensions.
"Even if there were no conditions at all, and if these sums were all paid out, then the fact remains that someone on a salary of £19,855 today, who has been on that same salary since April 2011, will still be on £19,855 on March 31st 2015.
"And don't forget, these 'lump-sums' are still taxed as income even though they're not put onto your salary - so those headline figures are not what you're actually receiving," Andy pointed out, adding: "The taxman doesn't care if it's 'consolidated' onto your salary or not - exactly the same deductions apply."
As well as the shortcomings of the unconsolidated taxable payments themselves, the conditions that they are tied to include acceptance of a rationalisation plan - Crown Transformation - that could see nearly one-fifth of crowns outsourced, hundreds of jobs lost and a massive shift over to part-time contracts.
"Post Office bosses are basically demanding that we sign up, in advance, to their 'Transformation' plan without us even knowing all the details of it," Andy remarked.
"To give just a couple of examples, they say they want to franchise 'up to 70' crowns, but they can't even tell us which ones. And they call for a 'more flexible combination of full and part-time roles' but again, they're not being specific.
"We're already extremely uncomfortable with the details we are aware of and the lack of more specific details in some areas makes us even more uncomfortable."
In the coming weeks, Andy and his team of CWU area and territorial reps will be holding a series of briefing meetings around the UK to discuss this new development and to explain the union's position in detail. And at national level, Andy will also be consulting with the CWU executive and leadership.
"As it currently stands, I think there is an inevitability about balloting for industrial action," he concludes.