By Nick Clark
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National Post Office strike hits back after attack on pay

Bosses say there’s no money for a pay rise, yet they paid billions wrongly prosecuting people in the Horizon scandal
Issue 2803
Six Post Office pickets with pink CWU union placards

Post Office workers on the Birmingham cash handling picket line on Tuesday (Pic: CWU on Twitter)

Post Office workers staged a national strike over pay on Tuesday. They are furious at bosses’ offer of a meagre 2 percent pay increase—well below inflation—for 2022, following a pay freeze in 2021. It also comes after many of them worked through the height of the pandemic. “We all feel the same way—we’re not respected by the employer,” Phil Gower, a CWU union rep at a cash depot in east London told Socialist Worker.

“We worked all through the pandemic without question and all we want is a pay rise in line with inflation. The cost of living is going through the roof, and the last time we had a rise in our wages was 2020. 2 percent—if we accepted that, it’s 1 percent for last year and this year. The rate of inflation is over 8 percent. It doesn’t even come anywhere near what it needs to be.”

Photographs on CWU social media pages showed there were picket lines all around Britain.  The strike hit the 114 Crown Post Offices—the major Post Office branches that are still state-owned—closing many. But the action by supply chain workers, who transport cash and valuables, meant the strike caused disruption to the smaller, franchised sub Post Offices too.

Strikers are also angry that bosses say there’s no money for a pay rise, yet paid billions wrongly prosecuting people in the Horizon scandal. The Post Office had to award huge payouts to postmistresses and postmasters wrongly accused of false accounting—and the government bailed it out with at least £200 million.

CWU postal executive member Andy Hopping told Socialist Worker, “To offer us 2 percent is absolutely insulting on the strength of the money that they wasted. The government is going to bail Post Office out to the tune of £1.2 billion.”

“They’re projected to have a profit of £38 million,” Phil said. “But they still haven’t published their accounts, it’s overdue. So it’s as if they’re hiding something. But when it comes to fighting a court case against the postmasters they can find hundreds of millions of pounds from somewhere. They knew what they did was wrong, but they still tried to fight it.

“On one hand they’re holding out the begging bowl to the government, so they don’t want to be giving us pay rises with the other hand. But the reason they’re having to hold the begging bowl out to the government is because they spent hundreds of millions of pounds fighting a court case, trying to defend the indefensible.” 

The strike closed Crown Post Offices in central London, and Phil said the strike had “solid support” at the cash depot in east London. “Nobody from the drivers has gone in, so it’s 100 percent, and in the cash centre, only two or three have gone in,” he said.

“All around the country, all of the vans aren’t going out, so there’s no collections or deliveries. That’s going to have a knock-on effect. Tomorrow we’re going to have a backlog of cash to collect and that’s going to carry on, because we’re not going to do it all in one day.”

Phil added that the strength of the action showed strikers would be ready to take action again. “It’s always the same with the Post Office,” he said. “To get anything you always have to get to this point. We’re prepared for a long dispute. People are willing to come out again.”

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