Up to 700 Crewe postal workers, their families and supporters braved the rain on Saturday for a march and rally in the town in protest against plans to close Crewe Mail Centre.
Organised by Crewe Communication Workers’ Union (CWU) branch, it attracted support from branches across the country as well as the CWU national leadership.
Royal Mail plans to shut Crewe and Liverpool Mail Centres and move the work to Warrington.
Marchers carried placards saying ‘Keep jobs in Crewe’, ‘Keep Crewe Mail Centre Open’, ‘Fighting for local public services’, and ‘Labour must listen’.
There were CWU delegations with banners from Crew No1 Branch, Greater Manchester Amal, Cheshire, Northampton, Newcastle-on-Tyne, Cleveland, South Central No1 Branch, the national CWU banner, and Public and Commercial Services Union North West Region.
News Line spoke to some of the marchers before they set off.
Crewe CWU member Andrew Twitchett said: ‘I don’t think it’s right you should have to travel 70 miles a day round trip, on one of the most dangerous motorways in the country.
‘It could mean, if delayed on the motorway, your shift will not start till you actually get to the new mail centre at Warrington.
‘That could end up being a 15-16 hour day.
‘That will affect family life and also cut the wage by £70 a week over travelling costs.
‘Crewe has been one of the best-performing offices in the country.
‘But the quality of service doesn’t seem to be the thing to Royal Mail.
‘We have to fight the closure. We have to defend jobs.
‘The union has to take action.
‘We are going to be balloting for national action, all the offices affected by closures around the country are involved.
‘Management does not listen or care about the workers and wants to run the system on casual work.’
Ian Taylor, CWU divisional rep North Wales and North West, told News Line: ‘There are mail centre closures planned across the whole of the North West.
‘Because we’re here we’ll deal with Crewe today.
‘The proposals as they stand have no regard for the hundreds of staff involved.
‘Many of the employees in Crewe face the real prospect of redundancy as the alternative for many is not viable.
‘For that reason, the CWU and their members in Crewe today are raising the awareness amongst the wider population in Crewe and to highlight to Royal Mail the necessity of getting round the table with the CWU to find an acceptable solution.’
Crewe CWU member Larry Ditchfield added: ‘It’s quite grim, but the support is tremendous.
‘And we have one thing in mind – keeping Royal Mail open in Crewe.
‘It’s not just for ourselves, it’s for the communities and future generations.
‘We’ve got the council, everybody here, the local MPs.
‘We just need Royal Mail to listen.
‘We’ll take every day as it comes.’
Local resident Bernadette Walker said: ‘My son works in the Post Office.
‘I would just like to say to the prime minister to listen to the people of Crewe and keep the sorting office open.
‘He’s the only boss. We’re saying please listen.
‘The unions should take action to defend every job.’
Beryl Annikey added: ‘My lad works in the sorting office.
‘I’m worried about his job, for him and his family.
‘He has a big mortgage to pay.
‘All the post offices are closing, there’s only the general one in Crewe.
‘The unions should take action to defend jobs and keep the sorting office open.’
Bernadette’s son, CWU member Fintan Walker, told News Line: ‘The decision to close Crewe and Liverpool is ill-thought out.
‘It’s not been costed properly and it’s taken no account of people and the environment.
‘It’s proved that the Post Office management are uncaring and hypercritical.
‘The union should fight locally and nationally to save as many jobs as possible.’
CWU Northamptonshire Amal branch secretary Mick Fitzmaurice said: ‘Our mail centre is one of the ones closing with Coventry and Milton Keynes.
‘The new office will be built in Northampton.
‘The original plan was to rebuild the Northampton Mail Centre which was burnt down due to an arson attack.
‘But management have taken the opportunity to hijack it as a cost-cutting exercise without union agreement.
‘We expect to be facing 900 job losses across the three areas.
‘We’ve requested a ballot of industrial action and expect that to be authorised shortly.’
At the closing rally, Crewe council leader, Tory John Hammond said: ‘Royal Mail have not consulted us.
‘The council is concerned about the impact on service standards and the impact on the local economy as a whole.
‘This is just the start of the campaign.’
Prospective Labour Party parliamentary candidate Dave Williams told the rally: ‘History will show Adam Crozier will be the same to Royal Mail as Beeching was to the railways.
‘The proposal to close the sorting office is a bad proposal.
‘I will support the CWU in any action they take to get Royal Mail round the table.
‘The spectre of privatisation was recently raised by a certain cabinet minister.
‘Public ownership of the Post Office is in the Labour manifesto and as far as I’m concerned it will stay in the Labour Party manifesto.’
PCS national executive committee member Dominic McFadden said: ‘We are here today to fight tax office and post office closures.
‘HMRC plan is to close the Crewe office and the neighbouring offices and for the nearest tax offices to be in Macclesfield and Northwich, and to reduce the staffing in those three offices from 168 to just 20.
‘This is part of the overall plan to close over 200 offices and reduce the workforce by 25,000 in HMRC.’
He said an earlier plan to close Crewe and move the work to Liverpool was stopped ‘by PCS members in Crewe voting for strike action’, adding ‘by fighting and campaigning we saved over 50 offices’.
He went on to condemn the government’s 2% pay cap for public sector workers.
He said: ‘The NEC met on Thursday and set a date of 10 November to take national industrial action.
He concluded: ‘The economy has changed, the world has changed and government policy needs to change.
‘In a recession, we need to keep offices and jobs in Crewe.’
CWU deputy general secretary Dave Ward told the rally: ‘In Crewe “modernisation” is about to destroy your working lives and there is no rationale behind their plan.
‘We have some unfinished business with Royal Mail. We are going to have to go to the point again
‘Our option is we are going to fight Royal Mail every inch of the way until it gives up the mess they have got the company in.’
He added: ‘Last year we signed into change by agreement. A year later it’s change by diktat.
‘I’ve been a Labour Party member all my life but I’m getting to the end of my tether.
‘They’ve got to stand up for the people that elected them.’
He said he had spoken to the local Tory MP and urged a ‘broad coalition’ to fight the closure.
Ward continued: ‘We are balloting our members for strike action in 16 mail centres in a couple of weeks time.
‘We are more resilient than Royal Mail are.
‘I can’t guarantee you we’ll save the Crewe Mail Centre but if you fight you will have dignity.
‘We will build up the local ballot and we will go back to a national ballot to save jobs all round the country.
‘If the government doesn’t listen we will be balloting our members about getting out of the Labour Party.’
Crewe CWU branch secretary Steve Wright, who chaired the rally, replied to Ward: ‘Thanks Dave, there is one thing I disagree with here.
‘We will keep the mail centre here in Crewe and we will stay open. We’re not going to Warrington!’
Other speakers were local Tory MP Edward Timpson and a representative from the local Chamber of Commerce.