Page last updated at 17:23 GMT, Friday, 30 October 2009

New postal strike dates announced

Billy Hayes: ''We are disappointed at not reaching a resolution''

The Communication Workers Union (CWU) has announced two more strike days for Friday, 6 and Monday, 9 November.

Unlike the current strikes, which have involved members in different roles striking on different days, the two new dates will be all-out strikes.

The second day of the latest action has involved 400 workers at three sites in Plymouth, Stockport and Stoke.

Meanwhile, the backlog of undelivered mail caused by the strikes has risen to 35 million items, Royal Mail has said.

'Laughable'

"We are increasingly frustrated with Royal Mail that every time we get near an agreement they seem to walk away," said General Secretary of the CWU Billy Hayes.

"What we want everyone to be focused on now is getting an agreement and the sooner this is wrapped up for CWU members, the public, Royal Mail and the wider community, the better for all."

Royal Mail said it had now cleared virtually all delays caused by last week's stoppages and that it was doing "all it reasonably and legally can" to get the post to its customers as soon as possible.

But the CWU said Royal Mail's estimate of the backlog was "laughable", alleging that between 50 million and 60 million items had in fact been delayed.

Talks between the CWU and Royal Mail are set to continue next week. They have been locked in a row over pay and modernisation.

Weekend consultations

The two sides have been meeting this week at the TUC headquarters in London, with talks carrying on during Friday afternoon.

Brendan Barber, general secretary of the TUC, who helped settle a dispute between the parties in 2007, said proposals had been put to the union and the company.

"They've agreed to look at those proposals over the weekend and consult appropriately with colleagues, with a view to returning to the TUC for further negotiations early next week," he said.

He added that both parties had agreed to his request that they did not comment publicly on negotiations while they were continuing.

The current wave of industrial action is to continue for a third day on Saturday, when 77,000 delivery and collection staff are due to strike.

On Thursday, an estimated 44,000 CWU members took part in strike action across the country.

These strikes follow two 24-hour stoppages last week.

'Maximum disruption'

"We're hoping for as many talks as possible. The urgency is obviously rising," a CWU spokeswoman said.

Although Friday's strike is on a much smaller scale than those held on previous days, one worker on the picket line in Plymouth told the BBC: "We may be a very small cog in a very large wheel, but we are aiming for maximum disruption."

The Plymouth site is England's largest coding centre - which redirects badly-addressed mail.

Royal Mail says it is trying to modernise to compensate for letter volumes dropping by 10% every year as people switch to other forms of communication such as emails and texts.

It has shed 63,000 frontline postal staff in recent years, and says it needs to cut more jobs as part of continuing modernisation plans.

The CWU agrees that job cuts are necessary, but disagrees over their extent, and over the future pay and working conditions of the workers that remain.



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