Wildcat strike hits post in London

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Labour Editor

An unofficial strike yesterday caused widespread disruption to London's postal system in a dispute over casual workers which began with a fight between two Royal Mail employees.

Management taped up pillar boxes in the capital yesterday as four out of the five main sorting offices were hit.

The altercation between two postmen at the office in Cricklewood, north-west London, last Friday resulted in one of the men being dismissed, which then sparked a wildcat walkout.

The stoppage spread to two more offices in north-west London and only came to an end when strikers' leaders agreed to a return to work package which involved the introduction of casual staff to clear the backlog.

A fresh walkout ensued on Wednesday however when strikers accused management of employing far more casual workers than had been agreed. By yesterday the action had spread to other parts of London, although most delivery offices were working, according to management.

The increasing "casualisation" of Royal Mail jobs is the subject of prolonged argument between management and the Communication Workers' Union, which was yesterday at pains to dissociate itself from the unofficial stoppage.

A spokeswoman for the Royal Mail said the main reason for the fresh walkout at Cricklewood was that staff wanted overtime for clearing the backlog from the first strike.

The spokeswoman said the strike had only caused patchy disruption and that the union and management were hopeful that the conflict could be brought to a speedy end.

In a ballot result out yesterday, Royal Mail workers throughout Britain voted by nearly five to one to accept an inflation-breaching pay rise of 3.5 per cent.

n Production at Ford's largest plant, at Dagenham, was disrupted yesterday as parts delivery drivers walked out on unofficial strike.

The stoppage was thought to have been staged in protest at the company's "final" pay offer and comes at a sensitive time for the company. Later this month the Dagenham plant is scheduled to begin production of a Mazda version of the Fiesta. The Japanese company is hoping to sell the model almost exclusively outside Britain.

Ford's 22,000 manual workers are holding a strike ballot over the pay offer which would yield a 4.75 per cent increase this year followed by 4.5 per cent, or the inflation rate plus 0.5 per cent, next year. The company however rejected a claim for a two-hour reduction in the working week to 37 hours.

Meanwhile Charles Golden, chairman and managing director of Vauxhall, wrote to the company's 7,700 manual workers warning them that their jobs would be in jeopardy if they rejected a "final" three-year pay offer.

The package includes a 4.5 per cent increase this year and an increase in line with the inflation rate in the two subsequent years. The company has also offered a one-hour cut in the working week.

The Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union has urged its members to accept the proposed settlement, but the Transport and General had made no recommendation.