Post workers offer strike moratorium amid deal hopes

Postal workers' leaders offered the Royal Mail a three-month moratorium on industrial action today in an attempt to reach a deal on modernisation and avoid a fresh wave of walkouts.

The Communication Workers Union warned at its annual conference that unless senior managers at the company changed its plans to cut jobs, a national postal dispute was "inevitable".

Postal workers in London have already voted to take strike action, accusing the Royal Mail of "arbitrary" cuts in jobs and services, and ballots for action are planned in other parts of the country.

An emergency motion approved by delegates at the Bournemouth conference during a private debate said Royal Mail should be given a "final opportunity" to transform the business before major industrial conflict becomes "necessary".

The union suggested a three-month moratorium on any industrial action to create the "right environment" for negotiations about modernising the business.

Delegates called for a commitment on a new job security package, improved pay and benefits and a fresh start on employee relations.

Officials said the idea of a moratorium was "unusual", adding that it proved the CWU wanted to help deliver modernisation, one of the issues at the heart of the current raging debate about the future of the Royal Mail.

There have been reports that the Government was delaying the passage of the Postal Services Bill, which paves the way for a partial sale of the Royal Mail, in the face of huge backbench opposition from more than 140 Labour MPs.

One Labour MP opposed to the Government's controversial plans said it appeared the issue had been "kicked into the long grass", adding: "I would like to believe this is now dead."

No date has been given for the second reading of the Bill, with time now running out before Parliament closes for the long summer recess in the third week of July.