Royal Mail will hire 30,000 extra workers to beat strike

Temporary Christmas staff will be brought in early to deal with planned stoppages

Royal Mail bosses have escalated their dispute with staff ahead of a national strike by taking on tens of thousands of temporary workers to "keep the mail moving" during the stoppage.

Union leaders reacted with fury yesterday after it emerged that the Royal Mail was planning to take on double its usual number of seasonal staff, and earlier than usual, to help with the Christmas rush this year.

Labour MPs warned that the move could turn the dispute into a full-blown industrial crisis, and urged ministers to intervene immediately – or at least to encourage both sides to turn to the Advisory Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas).

Days after the Communication Workers Union (CWU) confirmed two nationwide strikes this week over pay, working conditions and reform, the state-owned firm will today announce that it is recruiting up to 30,000 temporary workers to cope with the action – and the Christmas rush. Royal Mail claims 85,000 people have already applied for vacancies. The company insisted it did not plan "to bring people in to do our postmen's work when they are out on strike, but to make sure that we have people to help clear any backlogs between strikes".

However, the dramatic move was in line with an aggressive strategy for dealing with the strike laid out in a leaked document last week. The "Strategic Overview" made clear the need to minimise the impact of the strikes and limit the volume of mail and backlogs as part of a campaign to increase pressure on the CWU to accept planned changes.

It also emerged yesterday that Royal Mail is establishing five additional dedicated sorting centres to deal with the backlog of mail – and 5,000 managers throughout the UK will be sorting and delivering mail during any strike action. About 100 Royal Mail managers have already been delivering mail on Sundays to help to clear the backlog. They have received no extra money and used company vans to deliver letters and packages in areas where local strikes have caused the most disruption, including London.

"We are continuing to urge the union to halt its appalling and unjustified attack on customers," said the Royal Mail Group chief executive, Adam Crozier. "At the same time, we are absolutely determined to do everything we can to minimise delays to customers' mail, especially in the run-up to Christmas. Every year, Royal Mail recruits thousands of additional, fully vetted, temporary staff as part of the operation that successfully delivers the Christmas mail. This year we'll have twice as many people on board, and we'll have them in place much earlier."

But, amid complaints about the "provocative" gesture by the management, the CWU complained that the Royal Mail should be concentrating its efforts on thrashing out a lasting settlement with the workforce. A CWU spokesman said: "We're disappointed that Royal Mail appears to be more interested in sidelining the views and concerns of its staff than reaching an agreement to bring this dispute to an end. Instead of spending vast sums of money on untrained temporary workers, we urge the Royal Mail to engage in talks to reach an agreement to get the permanent staff back to work. CWU remains available for talks to avoid a strike."

The Labour MP John Grogan who helped to lead the parliamentary campaign against the part-privatisation of the Post Office said the mass recruitment drive was a worrying sign that the two sides were moving further apart. He said: "This will reinforce the feeling on Labour benches that the Government cannot stand on the sidelines while this dispute is escalating. It urgently needs to get Acas in there or convene talks itself, because this is developing into a dispute of the proportions of the 'winter of discontent'."

The reference to bitter disputes of the past will be unwelcome to the Secretary of State for Business, Lord Mandelson, as he attempts to maintain stable industrial relations during a difficult period for the economy.

The CWU general secretary, Billy Hayes, yesterday hinted that there could be more stoppages to come, insisting that he was "not ruling anything out". And, in another uncomfortable throwback for the Government, he suggested that he was in a stronger position than the former miners' leader Arthur Scargill in the 1980s, because the service had a greater impact on the economy.

The 24-hour strikes will begin on Thursday, with a stoppage by mail-centre staff and drivers. Delivery and collection staff will strike the following day, in a move calculated to maximise the impact of the action.

Mr Hayes added: "Mail volumes increase by three times in the run-up to Christmas. The thing about mail is that it's not something you can stockpile."

But mail bosses will today make clear that they have put together comprehensive plans to reduce the impact of what they call "irresponsible" strikes.

Royal Mail in numbers

121,000 Number of CWU members in the Royal Mail Group workforce balloted on strike action over job security and working conditions.

61,623 Members who supported a strike (out of a total of 80,830 who voted).

10% Annual decline in the number of letters and parcels delivered by Royal Mail (at a cost of £170m a year).

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Technical Presales Consultant - London - £65,000 OTE.

£65000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Technical Presales Engineer - central London ...

Recruitment Genius: Physiotherapist / Sports Therapist

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Physiotherapist / Sports Ther...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive / Advisor

£8 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives / Advisors are required...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operative

£14000 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable