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Last Updated: Thursday, 30 October, 2003, 19:22 GMT
Post walkout causes huge disruption
Picketers
Two weeks in and postal strikes are already causing chaos
As postal strikes continue to spread across the country, hundreds of BBC News Online users have been affected by the disruption.

Owners of small businesses are hit hardest by the mail bottleneck, but individuals are also frustrated as holiday and insurance documents fail to reach letterboxes.

Newlyweds Kate and James Meikle are planning to move to Italy on Saturday, but Mrs Meikle risks being left behind because her passport is stuck in the post.

"The Passport Office posted our documents last Saturday, and we're still waiting for them to arrive," Mr Meikle said.

"Without the passport, my wife can't travel and if our insurance doesn't cover the 350 cost of the flight, we doubt Royal Mail will."

The couple, who currently live in Barnes, South London, have tried calling Royal Mail to get some idea where the passport is.

People with smaller businesses like mine can't strike if they are short of money
Mel Hambridge-Allen, Oxford
"Every time I call the customer helpline the number is engaged."

"I'd be happy to go to the sorting office and dig out the letter myself, but I have no idea where it would be."

Oxford-based Mel Hambridge-Allen says her online business was grinding to a halt without an efficient postal service.

"Without our daily post, we receive no payments and can't make any deliveries."

Mrs Hambridge-Allen says she had only started receiving post held up by a previous strike three weeks ago.

"The worst thing is nobody knows what's going on - if you do manage to get through to Royal Mail they can't tell you anything.

"It seems members of our local office are so complacent - people with smaller businesses like mine can't strike if they are short of money."

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, Stoke-on-Trent, Cambridge and parts of Berkshire, Lanarkshire and Hampshire have also seen walkouts
Mail workers across Swindon have walked out
Regional distribution centre at Warrington, which deals with business post, hit by walkout

One man who lives in Clapham, south London, and is HIV positive said he relied on the postal service to deliver supplementary medicine that helps fight the side effects of his treatment.

"I order liquid mineral supplements from a scientist in West London - without them I suffer flu-like symptoms and insomnia.

"The latest delivery was sent over a week ago, but there's still no sign."

He says he now has to arrange to make a round trip by car from his home to collect the medicine in person.

"Why does the public always have to suffer in these situations?"

A Royal Mail spokesperson told BBC News Online the organisation hopes to bring the dispute to a "swift end", although talks have so far reached no agreement and will not resume until Friday.

"We apologise for the severe disruption in London and surrounding areas imposed by unlawful and unofficial strikes.

"If customers are having trouble getting through on our helpline, there is information available on the Post Office website, and local Post Offices remain open."




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