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Strike ballot set over Post sell-off

The union representing Consignia staff is to ballot members on plans to stage the first national postal strike for 30 years, over a dispute surrounding the £1bn part-privatisation of the company's facilities department.

The Communications Workers Union (CWU) has set 27 August as the date for the vote that could result in 180,000 postal staff staging a series of one-day walkouts. An earlier ballot, planned for late last month, was called off at the 11th hour after Consignia executives offered the CWU a number of concessions.

Consignia wants to transfer 4,000 CWU union members to a new joint venture company called Romec, 49 per cent owned by construction group Balfour Beatty.

But it has refused to give the CWU assurances it won't sell its remaining stake to Balfour Beatty, which would affect members' pension rights.

CWU members will receive details of the ballot later this week in a four-page letter to be included in the union's magazine.

"Consignia have continued their dogmatic insistence on outsourcing our Romec members and have refused to give the basic guarantees that the union has requested," says the letter written by Ray Ellis, the union's assistant secretary. "The union is balloting to ensure that the whole Consignia membership can unite to protect our Romec colleagues before the company is set up."

The letter notes that Consignia's chairman, Allan Leighton, has already abandoned plans to outsource part of the human resources department. It adds: "We are convinced that Romec ... has been allowed to go ahead because it is feared there will be a 'loss of face' if Romec outsourcing was abandoned."