Postal strike set for March after dispute erupts over sackings

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The Independent Online

A national postal strike will take place in the first week of March unless progress has been made in a pay dispute, union leaders warned yesterday.

Members of the Communication Workers Union (CWU) voted in favour of strikes last week but the union has delayed setting a firm date for action in the hope of an agreement with Royal Mail. The union is seeking a 5 per cent pay rise for 145,000 Royal Mail workers and has rejected a 2 per cent offer, plus the chance of another 0.5 per cent if targets were met. The CWU said the Royal Mail had provoked action by sacking two workers in recent days.

John Keggie, deputy general secretary of the CWU, said the two men had been "summarily dismissed" for breaking an agreement recently reached to try to improve industrial relations in the Post Office. "It hardly seems to be the action of a business looking for a settlement," Mr Keggie said.

Union sources said a London postal worker with 29 years' service was sacked yesterday after his van had been broken into and registered mail stolen and union officials claimed that a postman based in Dartford with 11 years' service was sacked earlier this week after collecting mail three minutes earlier than the collection time on the post box.

The union said it aimed to minimise disruption to the public if strikes went ahead, claiming that Easter and Mother's Day post would not be affected.

The Royal Mail claimed that negotiations with the CWU over the past fortnight had been positive, with an independent panel of mediators being appointed. The panel will hear presentations from the union and the Royal Mail and will recommend a settlement, although it will not be binding.

Mick Linsell, Royal Mail's managing director for service delivery, said: "We remain convinced that the pay issue can be resolved without any recourse by the union to industrial action."