No end in sight for postal strikes

THE worsening wildcat postal strikes are continuing to disrupt mail services in parts of East Anglia today – with no sign of an early settlement in the row.

THE worsening wildcat postal strikes are continuing to disrupt mail services in parts of East Anglia today – with no sign of an early settlement in the row.

Some post boxes in parts of west Suffolk and Essex – in the CO postcode areas – were being sealed yesterday , meaning people would have to travel further afield to post their mail.

Businesses across the region also warn they are being damaged by the strikes at a critical period of the year, with a backlog of undelivered mail continuing to mount.

Royal Mail workers were last night keeping up their unofficial action at Colchester's main Moorside delivery office after they walked out on Wednesday night.

Kevan Pugh, local Communication Workers' Union (CWU) unit representative, said: "We have every sympathy with people and businesses about their losses.

"No one wins out of all this – we'd rather be working. We've just heard that talks at a national level have broken down, which is disappointing – if this could be resolved locally, it would because industrial relations in this office are good."

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Talks between national Royal Mail managers and the CWU continued for a third day yesterday but there was little sign of an early end to the unofficial walkouts, which started two weeks ago in London.

Postal workers in Chelmsford, Colchester, Coventry, Maidstone, Milton Keynes, Oxford, Portsmouth, Slough, Southend and Swindon had joined the walkouts by last night.

Around two thirds of postmen and women in London were out and the Royal Mail started sealing the capital's 13,500 post-boxes.

Royal Mail chief executive Adam Crozier, who met CWU general secretary Billy Hayes on Thursday, has accused union activists of prolonging the dispute and said they were trying to cajole workers across the country to take industrial action.

He insisted that an increase in the London Weighting allowance, which is at the centre of the dispute, would not be improved despite the worsening dispute. The union has accused managers of bullying and intimidating workers.

Meanwhile, Chelmsford-based accountants Lake Bushells said the administrative costs of the strike should not be underestimated.

Director Paul Mustoe said companies could face problems meeting wage bills as cash flows become stretched as invoices are delayed in the post.

He said: "Even if the dispute finished today, there would be no chance of the backlog being cleared immediately, so there may still be a week at least to catch up with the cash flow."

Businesses in Suffolk are also struggling with the effects of the postal workers' strike.

Bob Feltwell, the chief executive of Suffolk Chamber of Commerce, said: "It's already causing inconvenience and uncertainty.

"Already chambers of commerce in London are telling us that the only way to communicate with them is by courier as the special delivery service is not working properly.

"I would urge everybody to get back to work for the businesses in Suffolk."

He said because the county is largely rural it relies on an efficient postal service.

He added: "The delays of cheques in the post is having a serious affect on cash flow in smaller businesses. People waste a lot of time and money chasing up cheques that were posted some time ago, especially customers in London where the strike has been going on unofficially for weeks.

"It is just bad news for the business community and the smaller the business the bigger the impact. "Companies that deal with mail ordering, internet ordering or are sending components or spare parts through the post have been badly affected."

Mr Feltwell added: "It will damage Royal Mail as businesses will seek alternative ways of doing it. We export documents electronically and don't use Royal Mail at all."

Meanwhile, delivery of books ordered from Tesco online was given to private firm Parcelnet in a big blow to the postal organisation yesterday as it struggles to cope with the effects of the strikes.

A Royal Mail spokesman said there were no barriers to any of the strikers returning to work and stressed managers were only trying to implement return to work standards which had been agreed with the union.

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