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Postal workers are to strike for 24 hours next Friday after the breakdown of talks over a pay and productivity package yesterday. The action by 140,000 Royal Mail workers in the Communications Workers Union is the first national postal strike in a decade.

Management registered its keenness to contain the industrial action to one stoppage, but it appeared there was a deep rift over management plans to improve efficiency. Royal Mail said that no post boxes would be sealed next Friday and that employees would be paid overtime to clear the backlog quickly. Negotiations resume on Monday in an attempt to revert the action, although management concede the strike is likely to go ahead.