Page last updated at 17:39 GMT, Sunday, 25 October 2009

Mail boss asks for 'common sense'

Mail strike not about pay - Crozier

Royal Mail chief executive Adam Crozier has said he hopes "common sense prevails" and three days of UK-wide strikes are called off.

Mr Crozier's comments on the BBC's Andrew Marr show come ahead of fresh talks between the Royal Mail and the Communication Workers Union on Monday.

He said he hoped an outline deal would see the strikes planned for Thursday, Friday and Saturday cancelled.

The CWU said it was "looking forward" to Monday's talks.

This week's planned strikes follow UK-wide walkouts by Communication Workers Union (CWU) members on Thursday and Friday of last week, in an ongoing dispute over pay, conditions and modernisation.

The Royal Mail says it is continuing to deal with a backlog of 30 million items but the CWU puts the figure nearer to 65 million.

'Complete nonsense'

Mr Crozier said the key to Monday's talks would be a form of words to end the strike action, which the Royal Mail says was formulated last week - but not enforced - by a team of its representatives and CWU leaders.

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 two 24-hour strikes were held on Thursday and Friday of last week
Fresh talks between the two sides due to take place on Monday, with further UK-wide strikes planned for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday

The union has described the suggestion that the wording had been agreed as "total nonsense."

Mondays' talks are being brokered by the TUC.

In Mr Crozier's interview with the BBC, he denied accusations that he was taking a back seat in the continuing dispute.

He said he was not involved in the direct talks with the union, because his focus was instead on talking to affected customers.

He also denied that he was taking any direction from the government.

"Of course I have been keeping them [government ministers] up to date," he said.

"But it is complete nonsense to say they are pulling the strings."

Mr Crozier added that while he hoped an outline agreement would result in this week's strikes being called off, it would take "a couple of months" to agree any final deal.

Meanwhile, Business Secretary Lord Mandelson told the BBC's The Politics Show that he denied any suggestion by the union that he had orchestrated the Royal Mail's handling of the dispute.

"How I would, by some means of telepathy or other magical means, be able to orchestrate, first of all to be able to provoke a dispute - heaven knows how I would even want to, let alone be able to provoke a dispute - and then intervene in it so that when there was a deal it then collapsed, I don't know," he said.

Lord Mandelson added that Monday's talks between the Royal Mail and CWU are an opportunity to end the deadlock and that both sides should seize the opportunity.

'Encouraged'

Reacting to the Adam Crozier interview, CWU general secretary Billy Hayes told the BBC that the union would not accept "any change by imposition".

CWU's Billy Hayes: "We need an independent assessment of the workload"

Saying the union would not agree to any compulsory redundancies, he added: "We want change with agreement, with job security at the heart of it".

He added that if the Royal Mail was "genuinely seeking agreement" at Monday's talks, "I'm sure we can move forward".

If this week's strikes to go ahead, they are due to involve:

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

• Friday - 400 workers at 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.

Falling post levels

The Royal Mail, which has shed 63,000 frontline postal staff in recent years, says it needs to further cut jobs as part of continuing modernisation plans.

HAVE YOUR SAY
A union should rightfully look after the interests of its members, but if the business ceases trading, then there will be no jobs to 'protect'
Paul Gowers, Guildford

It says it needs to streamline its business because the number of letters and parcels its core business delivers is falling 10% each year.

The CWU agrees that job cuts are necessary, but where the two sides disagree is over their extent, and the future pay and working conditions of the workers that remain.

In 2008, the Royal Mail Group went into the black for the first time in 20 years, and profit at the main letters and packages unit was £58m from a turnover of £6.7bn.

Royal Mail says this margin is very small considering the size of the turnover. The group also has a £6.8bn pensions deficit.



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