No sign of solution in post dispute

POSTAL deliveries in King's Lynn and Thetford were paralysed yesterday after workers walked out on strike.Union leaders accuse Royal Mail of going back on an agreement over staffing levels reached after a national strike in 2007, while bosses say today's strike “beggars belief”.

POSTAL deliveries in King's Lynn and Thetford were paralysed yesterday after workers walked out on strike.

Union leaders accuse Royal Mail of going back on an agreement over staffing levels reached after a national strike in 2007, while bosses say today's strike “beggars belief”.

Workers were picketing at the Royal Mail's main sorting office in Lynn's Austin Fields since 4.30am.

At Lynn, Adam Oakes, from the Communication Workers' Union (CWU), said two of the office's 106 staff had reported for work as normal, while all 50 staff at Thetford had joined the 24-hour strike.

Eleven thousand homes and businesses in central Lynn and around half as many in Thetford were left without post, deliveries to most rural areas were unaffected.

“This is really not about pay,” said Mr Oakes. “We had an agreement with the Royal Mail in 2007 around modernisation. In the last few weeks, the Royal Mail has walked away from that agreement.

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“The agreement was they'd take a number of jobs away over the summer and put them back towards Christmas. Now they're saying when they're gone they're gone; once people leave they won't be replaced and they'll just spread the work out around everyone else that's left.”

Dave Ward, CWU deputy general secretary, said: “Postal workers and customers are experiencing cuts to services, cuts to hours, cuts to jobs and threats over future jobs and services. This is just down-sizing; there's nothing modern about it.

“We want to see a modern Royal Mail at the cutting edge of British deliveries. There are opportunities in internet delivery fulfilment, modern machinery and innovation in products and services. However, without engagement and negotiation over how this affects the workforce, there is no light at the end of the tunnel for postal workers.

“We are repeating our offer of a no-strike deal to Royal Mail to avert current and future action. In return, we want them to uphold their commitment on the 2007 agreement to negotiate over modernisation.”

Workers at Boston and Peterborough were on strike over the weekend. Yesterday there were also walk-outs at Ipswich, Bury St Edmunds and across parts of Scotland.

Royal Mail said the strike “beggars belief” and accused the union of failing to engage with management.

Paul Tolhurst, its operations director, said, “The CWU is again saying one thing and doing another - publicly they say they want modernisation yet they write regularly to members saying union policy is to oppose change on the ground.

“They agreed with us only last week a timetable for further talks on change yet they now announce a national strike ballot. Their behaviour beggars belief.

“We continue to work extremely hard to make the union's leadership realise the scale and urgency of the changes we need to make, but having met the union more than 50 times in recent months, it is increasingly clear that the CWU refuses to believe that mail volumes are declining by around 10pc annually, despite the clear evidence of this in the UK and in every other postal market around the world.

“Royal Mail's future rests on providing customers with high quality, reliable services at great value-for-money and it's time the union realised that customers have a choice in a market where there are not just many rival carriers but rival electronic means of communication.”

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