Post Office managers and union leaders will resume talks today to end the latest round of strikes, with both sides saying that they hope there will be a quick settlement. The Government has also welcomed the initiative by the TUC, which stepped forward at the weekend offering to arbitrate.
Postal staff will be at work today clearing the backlog left by their two-day disruption last week, while talks begin under TUC auspices between management and the Communication Workers Union.
If the talks fail, the union is threatening another walk out, lasting three days, starting on Thursday.
Adam Crozier, the Post Office's £3m-a-year chief executive, who has kept out of the public eye since the dispute began, broke cover yesterday to appeal to others to "shut up" rather than exaggerate his organisation's problems.
Managers have been irritated by union claims that, far from being left to run the nationalised industry as they see fit, they are being told how to conduct the dispute by the Business Secretary, Lord Mandelson. Mr Crozier is not directly involved in today's talks, which are being led on the Post Office side by Mark Higson, the managing director of Royal Mail letters. The CWU leader, Billy Hayes, has delegated the talks to his deputy, Dave Ward.
"Let's stop some of the nonsensical things that are being said – exaggerated claims about backlogs that put people off using the industry; exaggerated claims about trying to get government involved, " Mr Crozier told BBC 1's Andrew Marr programme. "People would be better placed – in the nicest possible way – to shut up, get on with these talks, get back to an agreement and let's hope common sense prevails."
Mr Hayes later welcomed management's apparent eagerness to reach an agreement, but warned that they may not get it. "We're not just going to attend talks and simply hear reiteration of their position. We need to have serious dialogue on taking this issue forward. If they come there genuinely seeking agreement, I'm sure we can move forward," he said on BBC1's Politics Show.