Post Office plans to cut 9,400 jobs in huge shake-up

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The Independent Online

The post Office is to shed more than 9,400 jobs in one of the biggest shake-ups in the organisation's history, it was revealed yesterday.

The massive clear-out, which represents about a quarter of staff in clerical, administrative and middle-management grades, will begin in October and take a year to complete.

Senior managers at the Post Office group, now called Consignia, were at pains to point out last night that they hoped to find alternative jobs for 7,300 of the individuals concerned and that they were expecting only 2,100 individuals to leave the state-owned company.

The employees in the targeted jobs will be offered other work or retraining, but if they refuse the alternatives Consignia, one of the country's biggest employers with a 200,000 workforce, has not ruled out compulsory severance.

A Consignia spokesman said the decision had been forced on the organisation by increasing competition and the determination of the new industry regulator to introduce competition.

He insisted that a lot of the job cuts will be made through voluntary redundancies and natural wastage. "It's not going to be frontline staff. It's not postmen and women. It's managerial and administrative roles.

"We decided some years ago to operate as a single business rather than as four separate divisions and it has become clear that there was a degree of duplication of functions and that we can run the operation more efficiently and effectively."

Terry Deegan, the national secretary of the Communication Managers' Association, said there had been a considerable degree of "downsizing" in recent years and many of his members had taken voluntary redundancy. "The difference here is that the Post Office is being much more insistent," he said.

The union had been consulted over the job losses and was not against the decision in principle.

"We are not opposed to the idea of surplus staff being identified in the organisation. That doesn't cause us a problem. But it is thought that some may be made compulsorily redundant. We hope to try to persuade them to go down the voluntary route. We hope it is not the tip of the iceberg."

He added that the company had not made the most of its rebranding and the changes to the licensing rules. "I do not think that Consignia have done very much to create a positive atmosphere," he said.

"We see the commercial freedom as a new opportunity. We would like to be a partner in this."

* Military personnel were called into man Green Goddess fire engines on Merseyside yesterday after more than 1,000 firefighters began an eight-day strike.

As the Ministry of Defence vehicles tried to provide cover for the strikers, the regional fire authority and union leaders were as far apart as ever in a dispute over recruitment.

The firefighters voted overwhelmingly to walk out after the chief fire officer, Malcolm Saunders, decided to employ non-uniformed staff in senior posts. Last-ditch talks aimed at averting the unusually long stoppage ended in failure.