Belfast Telegraph

Post Office 'to cut 600 jobs in cash handling business'

The Post Office is to cut 600 jobs in its cash handling business, according to unions.

The Communication Workers Union (CWU) and Unite called on the Post Office management to resign in protest at government funding cuts to the service.

The job losses being announced on Tuesday come on top of an expected loss of up to 500 frontline jobs from the franchising of 39 Crown Post Offices and the loss of over 50 financial service experts selling products in branches through a further savings programme, unions said.

The CWU and Unite warned the Post Office is in crisis and heading for "extinction" unless the Government and company change course.

Dave Ward, general secretary of the CWU, said: "With this latest round of job losses, the management of the Post Office has to face the fact that it is in crisis and heading for ruin.

"If they care about the future of the network they should resign in protest at the straight-jacket government cuts have left them in.

"The Post Office was split from Royal Mail in 2012 in the run-up to privatisation and we are yet to see a plan that will secure its future.

"With a cut in its funding from £210 million in 2013, to zero in 2019, these job losses show that under Business Secretary Sajid Javid's leadership the Post Office is heading the same way as the steel industry.

"This year alone CWU members in the Post Office face 500 frontline job losses in branches, 500 job losses in its cash handling business and the closure of their pension scheme. There is a perfect storm in the Post Office and our members will expect us to act to defend them."

Brian Scott of Unite said: "The redundancies of 79 Unite members announced today, take the total number of proposed job losses to 130 in the last two weeks.

"These proposals tear the heart out of the Post Office and put it on the road to destruction".

"The Post Office's business plan, which was agreed with the Government, has failed. Those at the top should accept the blame for that, but instead they are adopting a slash and burn approach in an effort to cover this up.

"We will not sit back and watch them destroy a public institution".

The CWU, the main union for postal workers, and Unite, which represents managers, called on the Government and the Post Office to halt cuts and to sit down with unions, customers, small businesses and communities, to put together a fresh strategy to develop new services and safeguard its future.

The Post Office's cash handling operation, Supply Chain, provides collection, handling and distribution of cash across the post office network.

The Post Office was briefing staff about the job losses on Tuesday morning, said the CWU.

A Post Office spokesman said: "We are currently briefing the teams affected by proposed changes in our supply chain.

"These people should of course be the first to learn of our proposals, so we cannot comment further until these briefings are complete.

"It is regrettable that the unions have chosen to comment as they have before this has happened, and at the start of a consultation process in which we hope they will be fully involved to represent their members.

"As part of our journey towards building a commercially sustainable Post Office, we are looking at every aspect of how we operate.

"It's our responsibility to ensure that we have a business that is set up to thrive over the long term, and can continue to provide important services to communities all over the UK."

Shadow business secretary Angela Eagle said: "Hundreds of Post Office workers will be deeply concerned by this news, and worried for the future of their jobs.

"It follows the announcement of the potential closure of dozens of Crown Post Offices, and the consultation on the closure of the pension scheme. It's a triple whammy for the workforce.

"The Post Office is a British institution which provides a vital service to communities up and down the country. But it faces an increasingly uncertain future.

"The Business Secretary needs to do more - working in partnership with the Post Office management and the workforce - to ensure it has a sustainable future."

A Business Department spokesman said the Government has "massively" invested in the Post Office - by £2 billion from 2011-12 and 2017-2018.

He said: "With all of the calls on government finances, it is right that Post Office Ltd should operate as much as it can without public subsidy.

"The company is striving to do that and succeeding. Thanks to these efforts and the investment programmes funded by Government, the subsidy needed to sustain the business has dropped from £210 million in 2012 to £80 million this year.

"It is expected that Post Office will always need some subsidy to maintain the non-commercial/social elements of its network, so it is not right to say there will be no funding from the Government in 2019. The funding position beyond March 2018 will be the subject of discussions shortly.

"The Post Office business plan has not failed. The business is, like any good business, making sure it delivers for its customers as effectively and efficiently as possible."