Page last updated at 21:51 GMT, Friday, 17 July 2009 22:51 UK

Postal staff set to strike again

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The union has warned a national strike could take place

Industrial action at the Royal Mail is set to escalate with strike action scheduled for three days next week, the BBC has learned.

The strike action on 25, 27 and 28 July comes on top of Friday's one-day walkout by 12,000 Royal Mail employees.

The escalating action is in defence of workers who, the Communication Workers Union (CWU) say, are being unduly pressured by Royal Mail managers.

The Royal Mail has accused the union of standing in the way of modernisation.

'Illogical cuts'

Union members in London and other selected regions are to down tools in the dispute over job cuts and working conditions.

This could result in no deliveries of mail on Saturday 25 July, and no work at Royal Mail's London distribution centres on 27 and 28 July, says BBC business correspondent Joe Lynam.

The CWU has accused Royal Mail managers of trying to "break the union for good" and accused them of "illogical and arbitrary" job cuts.

Deputy General Secretary of the CWU, Dave Ward, said his union recognised that the Royal Mail is "facing huge problems" but said that it had a very different view of what modernisation is needed.

The vision that Royal Mail has put to workers involves "endless job cuts, hugely damaging cuts to the service and continuous cuts in our members' pay, pensions and conditions," he said.

Paul Tolhurst at the Royal Mail countered that with "mail volumes falling and our profits under huge pressure, there is no real opportunity for us to stop [making] the changes."

"Particularly," he added, "as these changes we are trying to put in were agreed with [the union] in 2007."

Earlier on Friday, about 400 employees marched on Westminster to deliver letters of protest to the Business Secretary Lord Mandelson.

Sell off

The Royal Mail is suffering from a big drop in demand for letters as more and more people use the internet to communicate.

The government announced last month that it was delaying controversial plans to sell a stake in the postal service to a private company.

It maintains that the partial sell off of Royal Mail is required as part of measures to tackle the company's finances - in particular a pensions deficit said to be near £8bn.

Lord Mandelson has said the company cannot survive without the sale.

The Royal Mail employs more than 150,000 people in the UK, most of whom are represented by the CWU.

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