Scots mail strike spreads

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SCOTLAND'S postal strike, which has left an estimated 16 million items waiting to be delivered, worsened yesterday when workers in Aberdeen walked out in support of the strikers.

The dispute, which started last Monday between the Communication Workers Union and Royal Mail, has particularly angered fans of Aberdeen and Dundee football clubs, whose tickets for today's Coca-Cola Cup final are still in the unsorted mail.

Around half of Scotland's 13,000 postal workers have walked out after a dispute over the numbers of staff used in the first and second deliveries of mail. Royal Mail managers have been trying to change rotas to make more staff available for the busy first-delivery period and fewer for the second - a plan vehemently opposed by the CWU.

In the last week, Royal Mail has been using couriers to transport post. On Friday, 60 workers from Aberdeen agreed to strike when they discovered letter-delivery firms had taken mail from Glasgow and Edinburgh to the city.

Yesterday the union was in negotiations with Royal Mail in Edinburgh to prevent the dispute reaching its second week. If no agreement has been reached, talks will continue today. Two thousand strikers are also due to meet today in Edinburgh.

Jimmy Irving, the CWU's Glasgow area representative, said yesterday: "The Royal Mail keeps talking about what the customers want, but it's only the postmen who care about that. We are hopeful something will be resolved but we will want to restore working procedures as they were."

A Royal Mail spokesman said last night: "We are getting so much mail for the first delivery that there is not such a need for all the staff for the second delivery. It's absolute nonsense to suggest, though, that second deliveries or staff would be threatened."

This is the second industrial headache for the postal service this week. In Victoria, central London, 460 workers are being balloted about a postman who moved branch.

The postman had been involved in a violent row with his manager in August, and the manager was immediately sacked.

The Royal Mail spokesman said: "That postman has not been disciplined. This transfer is standard practice. Anyway, he moved to an office nearer his home."