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Published: 10:30, 13 January 2013 |
Updated: 09:43, 10 January 2014
NEARLY 300 residents joined striking postmen and women on a picket line in Whitstable on Saturday morning in a protest at the imminent closure of the town's delivery office.
It was followed by a parade through the streets where demonstrators were cheered on by supporters.
Royal Mail, which has already closed the Herne Bay office, says it can operate just as efficiently out of Canterbury with drivers going back and forward to Whitstable.
But the postal workers' union is furious the move is going ahead without proper consultation and says the new system will rack up ten of thousands of miles of journeys into Canterbury, adding to pollution and congestion, and wasting drivers' time.
A huge banner-carrying crowd gathered outside the threatened delivery office in Cromwell Road where Royal Mail relief delivery drivers were delayed by the picketing workers.
Although a peaceful protest, the police were called after complaints that the road was being obstructed. But it was cleared when the march moved off at 11am.
Communication Workers union rep Chris Stone said: "I was absolutely over the moon with the turnout by the public which shows the strength of feeling in the town.
"Royal Mail has simply failed to follow the consultation procedure which is all we are asking for at the moment. It would at least give us access to the figures so we could question them and make alternative proposals. We are not being unreasonable here. It's a national agreement between the union and Royal Mail which they have basically ignored.
"We estimate it could be up to a 250,000 miles a year in journeys alone going back and forward to Canterbury and will actually cost the company something like £180,000.
"They've got 43 managers in the office today drafted in from around the county but I couldn't say what mail is being delivered. I suspect it will only be 3rd class advertising stuff.
"We intend to have further days of action unless Royal Mail starts negotiating with us."
Campaigner Julie Wassmer, who helped organised the public protest, added: "The strike by our postal workers, supported so heavily by the public, sent a clear message to Royal Mail that they cannot ignore us any more. They must engage with us or our posties will keep striking and we will keep supporting them with the campaign gaining increasing publicity to shine a spotlight on to the absurdity of this proposed move.
"The police were called by Royal Mail but their presence was never needed. I requested a placard to hold at the gates, to emphasise that our stand was not hostile but part of a peaceful demonstration."
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