08:59 22 October 2009
The first nationwide postal strike for two years has begun today (October 22). Plans for the walkout went ahead after talks between Royal Mail and the Communication Workers Union (CWU) broke down and failed to find a resolution.
All 120,000 members of the CWU have been told to stop work over the next two days, advice that seemed to have been heeded on the first day, as an estimated 42,000 mail centre staff and network drivers launched a 24-hour strike at 4am in the morning. A further 78,000 delivery and collection workers are to walk out on Friday October 23.Three more strikes are planned for next week, with more dates expected also.
The CWU said it my make an announcement with details about furture strike action later. They are likely to occur in the run up to the Christmas period, causing chaos for many as the dispute over pay and modernisation continues.
CWU deputy leader David Ward said: "We'll be announcing further action in line with legal requirements and notify the employer later this week."
However, his message to Royal Mail and Lord Mandelson is to "get [their] hands dirty" and meet with conciliation service Acas to reach a deal.
The business secretary, Lord Mandelson, was singled out for the failure to reach a deal, with his actions being described as "vindictive".
Postal workers seemed to support the strike action this morning as picket lines were mounted outside mail centres at the start of the nationwide walkout sporting banners and flags, with slogans including 'Defend Our Postal Services', 'Protect Our Pensions' and 'It's your service, it's my job'.
The industrial action is expected to cause a huge backlog of mail. Deliveries have been badly hit in parts of the country in recent months because of regional walkouts.
Shopping giants Amazon, Play.com and John Lewis have said that they are making arrangements with alternative companies to ensure delivery, news that is not likely to be welcome at the already under-pressure Royal Mail.
The national postal service has drafted in 30,000 temporary workers to help contain the damage to deliveries. However, contingency plans may have to be used to ensure hospital appointments and medical test results are received. It has also emerged that the Ministry of Defence may charter extra aircraft to ensure serving troops get their Christmas post.
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