PROTESTORS gathered in Southend High Street to campaign against the privatisation of the town’s post office.

The protest took place in High Street on Saturday and demonstrators were collecting signatures for a petition in a bid to prevent further privatisation of the post office services in the town.

The Communication Workers Union (CWU) has launched a Save Our Post Office campaign following the announcement by the Post Office Ltd to franchise 74 post offices to WH Smith.

The Southend Post Office was moved inside WH Smith in 2017 meaning the Post Office now shares the site and overhead expenses with WH Smith but staff remained employed by the Post Office and services were not affected. Plans to franchise the offices mean that WH Smith will employ staff rather than the Post Office and campaigners argue that it will lead to lower pay and conditions as well as a threat to services as the Post Offices will effectively be privatised.

The CWU says successive franchise announcements, including Southend Post Office, has meant the loss of 60 per cent of the Crown Office network since 2013 and privatisation by stealth.

It also claims franchising means the loss of good jobs with adverse changes to working terms and conditions as WH Smith replaces experienced Post Office staff with new employees.

These, it says are in typically minimum wage part time roles, paying £7.83 per hour instead of the £12.06 per hour for Post Office counter staff.

A spokesman said: “This is clearly bad for jobs in the local area and the post office workers. The closure of our Crown Post Offices and relocation to WH Smith, also means the loss of prime high street stores and this contributes to the demise of our town centres.”

Dozens of protestors, including council officials and post office staff, attended from 1pm in High Street.

Ian Gilbert, leader of the Labour Group on Southend Council said: “The proposed franchising of Crown Post Offices to WH Smith is dressed up as a way of keeping Post Offices on the High Street but our fear is it will lead to a reduction in services, experienced staff leaving the service and new recruits offered lower wages and worse conditions.

“Labour is backing the CWU in its opposition to further franchises of Royal Mail Post offices and we will continue to fight to protect our public services from attack by this Tory government.”