Post Office staff go on strike at Crown offices
More than 2,000 staff at Post Office Crown offices have gone on strike in a row over jobs, pay and closures.
Members of the Communication Workers Union have walked out at 370 sites in a dispute over proposals to close or franchise out 70 of the branches.
The union said the plans would affect hundreds of jobs and be a further blow for already struggling High Streets.
The Post Office said many of its Crown offices had opened for business and its 11,500 branch offices were unaffected.
A Post Office spokeswoman said they had been contacting their crown offices during the day and 101 of them were open.
She added the union was ignoring "harsh realities", with the offices losing £40m a year.
The Communication Workers Union (CWU) claimed that staff had not had a pay rise for two years.
A CWU spokeswoman told the BBC the strike was "solidly supported" by its members.
She added: "We know that the larger offices are being kept open with only the manager present as they are not members of our union, but our members are on strike.
"What we need is a meeting where we can negotiate with the Post Office as we genuinely believe we can sort this out. If not then we are prepared for more strike action."
Crown offices are Post Office branches directly managed by the company - as opposed to locally-run by sub-post offices - mainly based in major High Streets.
CWU's assistant secretary Andy Furey told BBC News: "We cannot allow the Post Office to walk all over us, we do need to stand up for ourselves so this could be the first of many strikes.
"Hopefully it won't be. Hopefully the Post Office will come to the bargaining table."
CWU deputy general secretary Dave Ward said: "The Post Office's plans are short-sighted and would rob the network of the most productive offices while simultaneously putting hundreds of jobs at risk and potentially damaging local economies."
The union said the Post Office's Crown offices accounted for one-fifth of the business's total workload.
It also said a meeting at the conciliation service Acas failed to break the deadlock, adding that "our members are steadfast in their conviction that the Crown network is valuable for local communities".
Post Office network and sales director Kevin Gilliland said: "We regret any disruption to services the CWU's call for strike action may cause to customers.
"Crown branches are currently losing £40m per year and this is being subsidised by public money. This cannot continue.
"We are committed to the Post Office remaining a key part of UK high streets and our plans ensure this will happen."
He went on to say its reforms mean 70 of Crown branches will be looking to "partner with a suitable retailer", while at the same time the Post Office would invest £70 million in the remaining 300 Crown branches to "modernise and grow services to ensure their long-term viability".