Page last updated at 20:48 GMT, Wednesday, 29 October 2003

Londoners told not to use post

Unions say 20,000 workers are on unofficial strike
The Royal Mail has asked customers in London not to post anything during a spate of unofficial strikes.

The company says it will also progressively seal up post boxes in affected areas of the city as the week goes on to prevent "a massive backlog of letters with nowhere to go".

The advice comes as action spread outside the city with staff in Oxford walking out after mail created by the wildcat strikes was sent there.

Talks between the Communication Workers' Union (CWU) and Royal Mail aimed at putting a stop to the 12-day dispute were adjourned on Wednesday evening without agreement.

The union is not backing unofficial strike action - but neither can we deny that this amount of management provocation almost guaranteed a reaction from our members
CWU deputy general secretary Dave Ward

They are expected to resume again on Thursday.

Royal Mail said about 50 staff at Scotland's largest mail distribution centre at Wishaw in Lanarkshire are back at work after joining the strikes when they were asked to handle mail redirected from striking areas.

The industrial action in London began when workers at Greenford, west London, walked out over mail handling arrangements and colleagues in nearby West Ealing, Acton and Kensington took action when a union representative was suspended.

Workers from more than 20 delivery offices have joined the walkout and the action has spread to mail centres in Romford, Essex, Nine Elms, Whitechapel, Paddington, Bromley-by-Bow and Mount Pleasant, which between them process all of London's mail.

A Royal Mail spokesman apologised for the delays.

He said: "We would ask customers to avoid posting anything if at all possible in the affected areas."

'Humiliating and belittling'

The company said in Harrow, north-west London, 180 out of 1,500 post boxes had been sealed.

The CWU claims up to 20,000 workers are involved in the unofficial industrial action in London but Royal Mail said 17,000 of its 28,000 had walked out.

CWU deputy general secretary Dave Ward said the strikes had taken place because local managers had been "attacking, humiliating and belittling" union members who took part in official action two weeks ago in a row over London Weighting allowances.

'Not coincidence'

"The union is not backing unofficial strike action - but neither can we deny that this amount of management provocation almost guaranteed a reaction from our members," he said.

The CWU is likely to suspend all official industrial action in a dispute over London Weighting, while the wildcat strikes continue, a union spokesman said.

Royal Mail chief executive Adam Crozier accused CWU officials of organising the unofficial strikes in a statement.

He said: "This does not look like coincidence to us.

"What we're seeing is a concerted campaign, orchestrated by union activists, to try to force Royal Mail to increase its London Weighting payment over and above the existing offer. This is unofficial and unlawful."

video and audio news
BBC London's Gareth Furby
"For London businesses missing their mail the daily office routine is being disrupted"

Q&A: Wildcat postal strikes
29 Oct 03 |  Business

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