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Last Updated: Thursday, 30 October, 2003, 14:12 GMT
Post strike chaos spreads
Picketers
Wildcat strikes started in London almost two weeks ago
Wildcat strikes by postal workers are continuing to spread across the UK, seriously disrupting postal services.

A huge backlog of mail is mounting in London, while a growing number of other areas including Oxford, Coventry, Kent and Essex are also affected.

About 30 drivers in Portsmouth walked out on Thursday, as did workers in Langley in Berkshire, and Hornchurch and Leigh-on-Sea in Essex.

The Royal Mail is advising customers not to post letters in central London unless absolutely necessary, while elsewhere it recommends avoiding the affected areas if possible.

Business leaders and industry watchdogs have described the situation as "appalling" and urged the two sides to resolve the situation as soon as possible.

WHERE IS THE DISRUPTION?
London services are extremely disrupted and people are advised to avoid posting letters
Special Delivery services suspended in London
Oxford, Essex and Kent are also hit
Milton Keynes, Coventry, and parts of Berkshire, Lanarkshire and Hampshire have also seen walkouts
The regional distribution centre at Warrington, which deals with business post, hit by walkout

The action began in London almost two weeks ago, in the wake of a 24-hour official strike over London weighting payments. Staff elsewhere then began walking out.

Management and union leaders have been negotiating at talks in recent days.

When talks resumed on Thursday afternoon, Royal Mail chief executive Adam Crozier met the Communication Workers' Union (CWU) general secretary Billy Hayes and his deputy Dave Ward at the firm's London headquarters.

Thursday's talks ended without agreement, and will resume on Friday.

They do not even agree on what the action is about.

As the talks continued, there were reports of workers taking unofficial action in Preston and Warrington.

Earlier, Mr Crozier accused union activists of stirring up trouble over London weighting payments.

HAVE YOUR SAY
If the postal workers want our sympathy they are going about it the wrong way
Mel, Oxford, England

"What we're seeing is a concerted campaign, orchestrated by union activists, to blatantly force the company to increase the London weighting payment," he said.

"Staff are being led astray, intimidated and encouraged to go out in the belief it will get more money, which it won't."

The CWU strongly denied any such orchestration, and said the row was not about London weighting, but about attempts to force through changes in working conditions.

Post boxes sealed

Deputy general secretary Dave Ward said: "They are making demands on our members... which are about ripping out all of their local terms and conditions."

Management were also trying to press ahead with introducing the single delivery service in the capital, he said.

Mr Crozier said the company was looking at a full range of measures, including legal and disciplinary options, to prevent workers walking out.

Staff are being led astray, intimidated and encouraged to go out in the belief it will get more money, which it won't
Adam Crozier,
Royal Mail chief executive

The action spread as far afield as Lanarkshire on Wednesday, when staff walked out at Scotland's largest mail centre in Wishaw for several hours.

Staff in Milton Keynes, Coventry, Oxford, Kent, and Essex have also walked out.

Some post boxes in London are already being sealed, and the company says hundreds more could be blocked by the end of the week if the dispute is not resolved.

Special Delivery services - where customers pay extra to ensure mail arrives - have also been suspended across the capital.

About 16 million items of mail a day are understood to be getting stuck in the backlog in London.

Photo processing company Bonusprint said it was receiving half the amount of films it normally does, and was losing tens of thousands of pounds a day.

Managing director Anthony Ward said he was "outraged" by the stoppages.

"I feel very frustrated by what is happening... on behalf of my staff and my customers and my shareholders.

"I don't believe we should be held hostage in the way that we are being held. We're trying to run a business on very fine margins and the Royal Mail are doing their very best to disrupt us."




WATCH AND LISTEN
Royal Mail chief executive Adam Crozier
"First of all, let me apologise to customers for the disruption"


The BBC's Jeff Randall
"Managers insist the dispute is being stoked up by troublemakers"



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