Page last updated at 21:28 GMT, Friday, 23 October 2009 22:28 UK

Postal strikes delay 40% of mail

Paul Moffett, Communication Workers' Union (CWU) Suffolk regional secretary

The nationwide postal workers' strikes have delayed about 30 million letters, some 40% of a typical day's post, Royal Mail has revealed.

Friday saw a second day of strikes, with delivery and collection workers walking out, following Thursday's 24-hour strike by mail centre staff.

Members of the Communication Workers Union (CWU) are protesting about pay, conditions and modernisation.

The CWU said delays were unfortunate but it had no choice but to strike.

"We have to do it for the reason that we are backed into a corner. If we don't do it, Royal Mail won't exist as we know it," said Paul Moffett, Suffolk regional secretary of the CWU.

But not all staff have taken part in the strikes, and Royal Mail thanked its workers who turned up.

STORY SO FAR...
Postal workers, especially in London, have been holding intermittent one-day strikes for months in a row over the way Royal Mail is to be modernised
Earlier this month, postal workers voted three to one in favour of nationwide industrial action (though Royal Mail said 60% of the total number of postal workers in the UK did not vote to strike)
The CWU set dates for the first nationwide postal strikes in two years
Last-gasp talks failed to reach an agreement and indeed the split between the union and Royal Mail management became more acrimonious, with the CWU announcing further strike dates

"We are very grateful to the 20% of our delivery staff who have chosen to come to work today, and who are doing everything possible to get all delayed mail delivered to customers as quickly as possible over the next few days," the company said in a statement.

'Appalling'

About 78,000 people began the latest action at 0400 BST.

Further strikes at Royal Mail are planned for next week, starting on Thursday 29 October.

News of the next wave of action was described as "appalling" by Royal Mail.

But the CWU again offered "unconditional" talks at the conciliation service Acas, saying further strikes could be avoided.

"We have six days before any further strike action would take place," said Dave Ward, deputy general secretary of the CWU.

"Given the progress we were making in talks earlier this week this should be enough time to reach an agreement."

If they do go ahead, the strikes next week will involve:

• Thursday - 43,700 staff in mail centres, delivery units in mail centres, network logistic drivers and garage staff walking out from 0400 BST

• Friday - 400 workers in three sites in Plymouth, Stockport and Stoke, who assist mail centres by reading and entering mail addresses

• Saturday - 77,000 delivery and collection staff across the UK.

No tax extension

Postal workers on a picket line in Bristol
Postal workers say they have been backed into a corner by Royal Mail

Meanwhile, HM Revenue & Customs has said it will not extend the 31 October deadline for filing tax returns because of the postal strike, but added that any returns received late because of the strike are unlikely to incur a fine.

"It's a statutory deadline. It can't be changed," a spokesperson for HMRC said.

"Anyone missing the deadline purely because of the circumstances of the strike will almost certainly not attract a penalty. Having a paper return stuck in a postal strike counts as a reasonable excuse under our long-standing guidelines."

Last year 2.4 million people sent returns by post. If people miss the postal deadline, they can still file online by 31 January.

'Complete nonsense'

The first national postal strikes for two years began after the CWU and Royal Mail were unable to reach an agreement on pay and modernisation.

The CWU has blamed the company and Business Secretary Lord Mandelson for the failure to reach a deal.

HAVE YOUR SAY
I support the posties, it's not Labour's Royal Mail to sell
Uncle Giblets, London

Lord Mandelson denied that he was to blame for the strikes going ahead.

"The CWU know that is complete stuff and nonsense from beginning to end," he said, speaking on a tour in Newcastle.

Royal Mail has called the union's strikes "unnecessary and irresponsible".

A BBC poll of more than 800 adults found that twice as many people sympathised with the postal workers than with the Royal Mail management.

The prime minister has called for both sides to "get round the table" to bring an end to the "self-defeating" strike.



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