Postal leader rejects Blair

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The Independent Online
Despite his own private misgivings, the leader of the postal workers yesterday brushed aside Tony Blair's call for a ballot to end the dispute at the Royal Mail.

Alan Johnson, general secretary of the Communication Workers' Union, said that the conflict was "not a matter for the Labour Party". Referring to criticism by both Mr Blair and Ian Lang, President of the Board of Trade, Mr Johnson said: "Comments by politicians come thick and fast. We're quite used to it. We don't need anybody to teach us lessons on how to conduct our affairs."

Mr Blair said yesterday he thought the package on offer from management was "reasonable" and that it should be recommended in a ballot of members.

Mr Johnson took the same line as the Labour leader at a meeting of his executive on Tuesday and was once more overturned by his colleagues.

By a majority of 14 to 9 the union's postal executive decided to intensify action by calling employees out on Friday 20 September and Monday 22 September, thus spreading the disruption over the weekend.

Mr Johnson is known to believe privately that a settlement should be recommended. In public he represented the views of his executive. The union is resisting the introduction of "team-working" as part of a range of efficiency measures.

Leaders of the RMT transport union predicted "yes" votes in strike ballots among guards and catering staff at eight train operating companies to be announced today. The operators concerned are Anglia; Cardiff; Gatwick Express; Inter-City West Coast; the Island Line; London, Tilbury and Southend; South West Trains and Thames Trains.

Stoppages went ahead yesterday at ScotRail; North West Regional Railways; Regional Railways North East; and South Wales and the West.