A fresh wave of postal strikes began in the early hours of this morning, after last-ditch hopes of averting the action collapsed last night.
Up to 120,000 members of the Communication Workers Union (CWU) walked out from 4am, causing huge disruption to mail deliveries. The strikes were confirmed despite three days of intensive talks between union leaders and Royal Mail bosses, under the chairmanship of TUC general secretary Brendan Barber. The Royal Mail accused the union of walking away from the peace talks and condemned the new strikes, accusing the union of "playing havoc" with customer confidence.
But Dave Ward, the CWU's deputy general secretary, said this week's talks had been the "most useful and productive" since the start of the bitter dispute over jobs, pay and modernisation.
The two sides began the latest round of talks on Monday, after agreeing to meet at the headquarters of the TUC, where the agreement to end the last national dispute was brokered in 2007.
Up to 120,000 postal workers staged two 24-hour strikes last week, delaying more than 30 million items of mail. That figure had been reduced to two million yesterday, but more disruption will undoubtedly be caused by the new strikes.
Today 43,700 staff in mail centres, delivery units in mail centres, network logistic drivers and garage staff will stage a walk-out, followed on Friday by 400 workers at three sites in Plymouth, Stockport and Stoke, who assist mail centres by reading and entering mail addresses. On Saturday, 77,000 delivery and collection staff across the UK will also strike.Reuse content