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The BBC's Steven Evans
"The Post Office has also been hit by the chaos on the railways"
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Monday, 18 December, 2000, 05:25 GMT
Strikes may hit Christmas post
Postal worker collects mail
Deliveries are already hampering deliveries
Hundreds of postal workers have gone on strike prompting fears of further delays to Christmas mail already affected by the disruptions to the rail network.

About 500 delivery workers in Coventry started a 24-hour stoppage at midnight as part of a campaign to cut their working week to five days, a Royal Mail spokeswoman said.

In separate action, counter staff at 29 post offices in south-east London are striking for 24 hours over the future of one of the post offices.

The strikes come on top of disputes around the UK earlier in December, the busiest month of the year for the postal service.

'Cynical move'

The Royal Mail spokeswoman said managers and volunteers would be delivering mail in Coventry.

Although deliveries would be affected people in the area should still get their Christmas mail in time and negotiations were continuing.

She described the pre-Christmas action in Coventry as "a bit of a cynical move", adding that "striking at this time of year is absolutely unnecessary".

In London managers and volunteers would ensure that the 29 post offices remained open on Monday.

Postal workers in Cardiff took unofficial industrial action earlier this month over the use of casual staff to help tackle the Christmas rush.

The strikes spread to Oxfordshire and Bristol before the dispute was settled.

Rail disruption

Other disputes affected Belfast, London, Edinburgh, Fife and the Lothians.

Royal Mail, which expects to deal with 160 million letters a day this week, is also having to contend with restrictions across the rail network.

Two weeks ago it said freight train disruption had had an "appalling" effect on the postal service, causing delays for almost 10% of first class mail.

It said it had taken on an extra 30 aircraft and 200 trucks to cope with the demand over the Christmas period.

Monday is the last day for second class mail to be posted, and the final day for first class mail is Thursday.

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See also:

18 Dec 00 | UK
Festive travel bonanza
06 Dec 00 | Northern Ireland
Postal staff back to work
06 Dec 00 | Wales
Postal strike to end
04 Dec 00 | Northern Ireland
Strike prompts Christmas post fears
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