Accusations fly as UK postal strike talks resume


Talks to try to end a rash of wildcat postal strikes in Britain that have caused a massive backlog of undelivered mail and forced Royal Mail to seal post boxes in London resumed today.

Some 25,000 workers are taking part in the unofficial walkouts, causing huge problems for businesses and leaving some households in the capital without mail deliveries for 10 days.

With attitudes hardening on both sides, the public war of words continued today as Communications Workers Union general secretary Mr Bill Hayes attacked Royal Mail for not taking negotiations seriously.

"It can be resolved if Royal Mail put their senior managers in to resolve it. It doesn't sound like they want to. It sounds like they just want to make political capital and bully and intimidate their workforce," he told BBC radio.

"Royal Mail have viodetaped and tape-recorded people at meetings. That is what is going on," he said, describing the actions as "disgraceful".

Shadow trade and industry secretary Mr Tim Yeo said management and workers should realise how damaging the strike would be to the company and its customers.

"A strike now if it spreads will be uniquely damaging ... because their are so many alternatives to using letter post," he said.

Royal Mail officials said many workers were being intimidated into joining the strike.

"Staff are being led astray, intimidated and encouraged to go out in the belief it will get more money, which it won't," Royal Mail Chief Executive Mr Adam Crozier said.

But union officials said the action was not about "London weighting", an extra payment to compensate workers for the higher cost of living in the capital, but about attempts to force through changes in working conditions. "They are making demands on our members...which are about ripping out all of their local terms and conditions," Mr Dave Ward, deputy general secretary of the CWU, told reporters.

Royal Mail said the unofficial strike action, which started in London two weeks ago, now affected 15 of the 73 postal centres across the country.

In a bid to ensure businesses get their mail, the postal services regulator, Postcomm, relaxed delivery rules, effectively allowing rival private companies to handle business post in the short term.