Post Office faces further strikes over pensions

Unite union says its members plan to take industrial action after pension fund trustees approve proposal to cut benefits

The Post Office is facing further strike action after the trustees of its pension fund voted to approve a plan to cut benefits.

After the trustees’ vote, about half the Post Office’s 7,000-member workforce will be forced to shift from a final-salary pension scheme to a defined contribution scheme, a move that unions say could cut retirement benefits by 30% or even more in some cases.

The Communication Workers Union (CWU) said it expected the pension scheme to close in April, despite the fact that it was in surplus by £143m, making it one of the best funded schemes in the UK.

Dave Ward, general secretary of the CWU, said: “The Post Office’s decision will cost our members thousands of pounds in their retirement. It’s wholly unjustified and we’re seeing a publicly owned company effectively stealing money from people who have diligently saved for their retirement. The government cannot wash its hands of this.

“It’s more cuts from this irresponsible management team who seem obsessed with managing decline instead of encouraging a thriving Post Office.”

Ward said the union, which represents postal workers, would announce its plans for strike action after a meeting of its executive next week.

Unite, which represents 732 Post Office managers, said its members planned to take industrial action within the next month.

More than 300 major Post Offices were affected when members of both unions went on strike last month in protest at the planned changes. The Post Office’s final-salary scheme was closed to new members in 2008 but long-serving staff have continued to accrue benefits since then.

The trustees have approved the closure of the scheme to new accruals and from April members will only be able to build benefits in a new defined contribution scheme. Unlike a final-salary scheme, which promises a specific income, the income from a defined contribution scheme is dependent on the amount paid in and the performance of the fund’s investments.

Unions are also angry about plans to put 20 more directly run Crown offices into private hands, taking the total this year to 85. Unions see the move as a form of backdoor privatisation of the service.

Unite called on the government to step in to ensure that the Post Office had a “coherent strategy” that would allow it to move forward sustainably. Brian Scott, Unite’s officer for the Post Office, said: “The government has a responsibility for this and needs to accept responsibility as the shareholder.”

He said Margot James, the government minister responsible for the Post Office, should launch an investigation to “ensure that this much-cherished organisation has a sustainable future, when currently its prospects are bleak for both its customers and workforce”.

Mark Davies, communications and corporate affairs director at Post Office, said: “We are disappointed that our unions are again talking about strikes when we continue to try to reach a constructive way forward through talks at Acas. We can reassure our customers that, if strikes go ahead, the vast majority of people working at Post Office branches would not be involved and almost all of our network will be open for business and operating normally.

“More than 11,000 branches – 97% of the Post Office network – are run by independent businesses and the 50,000 people who work in these branches are not involved in the strike action.”

Contributor

Sarah Butler

The GuardianTramp

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