Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 13 July 2014

Government ‘failed to give its backing to post offices’

The Government has been accused of missing an opportunity to support post offices as crucial talks were held to try to head off national strikes against Royal Mail.

The talks were adjourned last night and will resume again today.

Ministers were accused of an “inadequate response” to a call from MPs for greater provision of banking services at post office branches across the UK.

Leaders of the Communication Workers Union spent 12 hours locked in negotiations with Royal Mail managers at a secret location in central London, with time running out on reaching a deal to head off planned walkouts on Thursday and Friday.

Union sources said the fact that talks lasted so long was a positive sign.

Earlier, the Government said it shared the view of the Business Select Committee that the Post Office should work towards a greater provision of banking services across the network.

But the MPs complained that ministers had not set out in detail how they intended to pursue the objective and asked Lord Mandelson's Business Department (BIS) to expand in writing.

George Thomson, general secretary of the National Federation of SubPostmasters, said: “Sub-postmasters across the country will be bitterly disappointed by the Government's inadequate response to the select committee's proposals which represents a missed opportunity to revitalise our post office network.

“In setting out their reply on how to safeguard the future of the network, ministers have failed to commit to measures which will help achieve this.”

The CWU confirmed it was considering legal action against Royal Mail's plan to take on 30,000 temporary staff.

Up to 120,000 union members will strike on Thursday and Friday, threatening massive disruption to mail deliveries just weeks from Christmas.

Royal Mail insisted its plans were lawful and said it was willing to attend talks at the conciliation service Acas — but only if the strikes were called off.

Meanwhile 98 MPs have now signed a Commons motion supporting the union's call for peace talks to resolve the bitter dispute.

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