CHRISTMAS mail is set to be blighted across the Portsmouth area this weekend as Crown Post Office managers go on strike for a third time in as many months.
The industrial action is due to kick off on Saturday, comes amid a long-running dispute over pensions, jobs and branch closures.
The strike falls on one of the busiest weekends for parcels and post in the run-up to Christmas.
It’s being organised by union bosses from Unite and will coincide with strike action by Communication Workers Union (CWU).
Among the offices that are expected to be affected in the area include: Slindon Street, in Portsmouth’s, West Street, in Fareham, Wellington Way, Waterlooville, Park Parade, Leigh Park and North Street, Chichester.
However, a spokeswoman for the Post Office said the strike would only affect three per cent of branches nationwide and that it would remain ‘business as usual’ across the rest of the network.
Mark Davies, Post Office spokesman, said: ‘We are extremely sorry that the unions are attempting to disrupt services for people sending parcels and cards to loved ones in the run-up to Christmas.
‘However, we would like to reassure our customers that, if a strike goes ahead on December 3, it will impact less than 300 of our 11,600 branches. It will be business as usual in 97 per cent of our network.’
Brian Scott, Unite’s officer for the Post Office, said the action needed to send a strong message.
‘We are taking this action because the management refuses to talk in a constructive manner about the pension scheme which is currently in surplus to more than £143m,’ he explained.
‘This is the retirement income of our members which is at stake and we are not going to stand idly by and let them lose thousands of pounds when they retire.’
‘More generally, it appears that it is only the unions that care about the future viability of the Post Office and the services it provides for communities across the UK.
‘The management seems to have abdicated its responsibility and, as the government ultimately owns the Post Office, we call, once again, for business minister Margot James to order an investigation into the Post Office’s future and what we consider is a catalogue of managerial incompetence.’
Crown Post Offices are the larger branches, usually located in High Streets of major towns and cities.
In April, the Post Office revealed plans to transfer up to 61 branches into WHSmith stores.
The company said the move was part of a 10-year plan to slash costs and save cash.
But the CWU said it faced up to 2,000 job losses as a result and it would lead to the closure of its pension scheme.
This latest bout of strikes is the third in as many months.
The first 24-hour walk-out took place on September 15 and the second on October 31.