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Southport Reporter® covering the news on Merseyside.

Date:- 16 July 2007

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Postal Dispute – Further Action in the North West

OVER 18,000 CWU members working in Crown Post Offices will be on strike in the North West will be taking a further day of strike action commencing on Monday 16 July 2007 and Thursday 19 July 2007. 

Over 98% of the workforce in the North West took part in the strike action last Friday; it shows the extent of the overwhelming support of the workforce to achieve both a decent pay rise and an agreed approach to automation and major change.

In calling further action the union’s main objective remains to reach a negotiated agreement.

To demonstrate our commitment to achieving a settlement, the union has tabled yet another fresh offer. The next strike can be avoided if Royal Mail agrees to engage in fresh and meaningful negotiations on the following:-

* Modernising the company and improving efficiency by taking the workforce with us

* Delivering on our commitments to permanently raise the value and status of postal workers

* Agreeing a resolution to pension issues

* Working together to face up to the challenges of competition

Neither the union, nor its members are opposed to true modernisation that enables us to enhance, not lessen, the service we provide. To date Royal Mail has not tabled one proposal on the introduction of new technology.

Royal Mail continue to claim that they are cash strapped, yet only this week they have managed to find enough to pay their managers up to £6,000 each in bonuses. This has enraged our members who have been offered 2.5% with strings and in the case of staff who work in Crown Post Offices a pay freeze over the next three years which equates to an average loss of £6,500 over this period.

Regional Secretary, Carl Webb said, this strike day can be avoided simply by the Royal Mail Chairman Allan Leighton agreeing to enter into meaningful negotiations.

If he again is dismissive of his employees then there will be further strike action.

Working carers should have tax-free vouchers

LOCAL businesses and working carers in the North West are being urged by Carers UK to sign up to a new national campaign to give carers the same rights to tax-free vouchers for additional support as working parents currently enjoy for childcare costs.  In the North West over 307,000 people balance work with caring for an elderly or disabled family member or friend.

The voucher system would enable carers in employment to buy in a range of accredited extra services to help them manage their caring responsibilities. It would include services such as additional home care, gardening, chiropody, shopping trips and other daily activities.  The system would help businesses retain their most loyal and experienced staff. According to a new report from the London School of Economics, currently 70% of carers aged under 50 years and 80% of those aged 50-60 are forced to give up work to care.

Carers would be able to allocate a proportion of their salary to care services which would not be subject to income tax or National Insurance (NI). Therefore, they would be able to purchase services greater in value than their total salary sacrifice.  As with the existing childcare vouchers scheme, employers would not be out of pocket as they also benefit from NI exemptions which would cover administration costs.

It is predicted that, if the care voucher system were implemented nationwide, an investment by the Government of £37m would generate £83m worth of care services - equal to funding 5.5m hours of extra home care.  The research also shows that the system may stimulate the market for extra care services at a time when many local authorities are struggling to meet the needs of the ever-increasing number of elderly and disabled people. Nearly 80% of local authorities have made drastic cuts and are only providing services to those adults with the very highest levels of need.  Already there is a groundswell of employers, carers, charities and childcare organisations backing the campaign.

Imelda Redmond, chief executive of Carers UK, says:- "Working carers have just as tough a role as working parents in taking care of a loved one. Having access to quality care services would make all the difference, just as skilled childcare does. It is unacceptable that, every day, carers are forced to choose between work and caring because they are not properly supported.  This system of care vouchers strikes exactly the right balance between Government, employer and carer - and will help address the urgent need for more and better care services."

To find out more about the care vouchers proposal and sign up to the campaign, visit carevoucherscampaign.co.uk.

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