Strike threat over Harpenden delivery office closure

IN a last-ditch bid to save Harpenden’s delivery office Royal Mail staff are preparing to go on strike over their employers’ “opportunist” decision to move the service to St Albans by the end of this month.

Since April staff have been battling to try and overturn plans to close the Station Road office, which would force more than 50 employees to relocate.

But after months of discussions with Royal Mail, members of the Communications Workers Union (CWU) voted this week in favour of taking industrial action in a final attempt to encourage them to rethink the move.

The decision was announced just one day after the first phase of the relocation began, which is part of Royal Mail’s countrywide plans to modernise its operations.

Tom Walker, branch secretary of the CWU which represents the delivery office workers, said: “The ballot is a last resort; we have been working with them for months but they are quite belligerent. They want to cash grab, sell the land and make do.

“We are not a militant office and we do not have a tradition of taking industrial action but all other avenues have been explored.

“It is about getting the attention of these people who refused to reconsider to get them back round a table before they make this awful mistake. It is also about safeguarding local traditions and what can be more traditional than your local Royal Mail Service? Once it is gone it won’t come back.”

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The workers’ main grievance is the effect the closure will have on their customers, who will now have to make the extra journey into St Albans and wait in what they expect to be long queues.

They are also concerned about the safety of workers because they claim there is not enough room for 52 extra employees at the St Albans office, based in Ashley Road.

Mr Walker added: “They have removed the staff canteen and break areas but we don’t believe it is sufficient space.

“The car parking is also horrendous and the congestion will be horrendous. We believe the move is short sighted and opportunist.”

Royal Mail confirmed there would be no job losses and have offered to pay staff for any mileage incurred to travel the extra distance.

Dennis Murphy, Royal Mail’s delivery director, said: “We have been talking extensively to our people about the move. The relocation of Harpenden is part of our ongoing modernisation programme and will help us place the business on a sound, secure and stable footing.

“Customers in Harpenden can be reassured that we will do all we can to minimise disruption and ensure we maintain the high level of service they expect and deserve from Royal Mail.”

Customers have until Saturday, September 22, to pick up any undelivered items from before August 28 at the Harpenden office.

The CWU, which has already collected 10,000 signatures on a petition against the move, will notify Royal Mail of the vote and issue them with a seven-day strike notice.