400 Festival Park jobs safe after Royal Mail's U-turn on customer service centre
HUNDREDS of jobs have been saved after Royal Mail dropped proposals to shut a customer service centre.
Workers at the Festival Park centre were told Royal Mail was reviewing the future of the site in November 2010.
The announcement sparked a campaign by union officials and staff who gathered hundreds of signatures on a petition against the closure and attracted support from North Staffordshire Chamber of Commerce.
Yesterday, employees were told the threat to their jobs had been lifted as Royal Mail has decided to keep the customer service operation in the city.
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Royal Mail spokesman Val Bodden said: "Royal Mail has for some years been engaged in a programme to consolidate its customer service centres into larger, purpose built centres where we can concentrate expertise and technology and more efficiently meet the needs of our customers.
"Following a review of all our customer service operations, we have taken the decision to retain our customer service operation in Stoke-on-Trent.
"Consequently we are pleased to announce that there will be no job losses at this centre.
"Staff were informed of the decision yesterday."
The Media Way customer service centre has two main functions.
During the day, staff answer phone calls and correspondence and work on sales and promotional campaigns.
From 5.30pm, Royal Mail data entry workers decipher addresses which cannot be read by mail machines.
Shaun Pender, political officer for the Communication Workers Union (CWU), said: "Royal Mail has announced that the customer services department has got a long-term future.
"It said there are no plans to close it, safeguarding jobs for 400 people.
"This is a good news story for the area and the people who have campaigned for two years to keep the site open.
"It's a testament to the CWU and also the workers on the site who have come together to resist what was being mooted by the employers.
"There are only about three or four other places that carry out this customer service operation."
Royal Mail has already transferred 700 jobs out of North Staffordshire and South Cheshire after shutting sorting offices in Stoke and Crewe in 2009 and 2010 respectively.
Stoke-on-Trent Central MP Tristram Hunt welcomed the news.
He said: "This is great news for Royal Mail workers.
"These are highly-skilled, well-paid jobs and we need as many of these as we possibly can in Stoke-on-Trent at the moment."