Postal workers' strike begins

Postal workers in Norfolk joined their colleagues across the UK by going strike at noon today, crippling mail deliveries until next week in an escalation of a bitter dispute over pay, jobs and pensions.

Postal workers in Norfolk joined their colleagues across the UK by going strike at noon today, crippling mail deliveries until next week in an escalation of a bitter dispute over pay, jobs and pensions.

Members of the Communication Workers Union (CWU) mounted picket lines outside mail centres at the start of a 48-hour walkout, which will be followed by another two-day stoppage from 3am on Monday.

Firms were warned that the strikes mean there will be no deliveries until next Thursday, and it is estimated that the row will cost industry millions of pounds.

Mully Hill, eastern branch secretary of the CWU, joined workers picketing outside the Norwich mail centre, which employs 700 staff at the site, with a further 300 based at the delivery office in Roundtree Way.

“This will affect the service big time; there will be no deliveries for the next four days, and even then we're going to have a backlog that will take days to get rid of, probably going in to the week following the next,” he said.

The strike went ahead as planned despite last-ditch talks between the union and Royal Mail aimed at resolving the long-running dispute.

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The government refused to become involved, making it clear it should be resolved by the union and the management.

Mr Hill added: “The government needs to get involved - it's the main shareholder, so as far as we are concerned they have as much responsibility as Royal Mail.”

Ironically, the workers were gathered in front of a large red canvas sign advertising for temporary help over Christmas and “a service to be proud of” written in bold white letters.

Despite their visible presence, a steady stream of motorists pulled in to post items at the bank of letter boxes nearby.

A Royal Mail spokesman said: “We will do all we can to mitigate the impact of the strike action but we would ask our customers to avoid posting mail during the strikes and if they do so, then to post any mail at Post Office branches, which will all be open for business as usual.”

Caroline Williams, chief executive of the Norfolk Chamber of Commerce explained that although a great deal of correspondence can be conducted by email and fax, contracts and packages still require a postal service.

“The affect will be felt for longer than three of four days, probably more a case of two weeks because of the backlog, which will begin to cause difficulties,” she said.

“It's causing problems for exports trying to get documents through to be stamped, and problems for people waiting for cheques to arrive.”

Andrew Stronach, spokesman for the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, said patients referred for urgent treatment would normally be sent a letter but are always telephoned as a back-up, and all departments had been warned to send any urgent mail ahead of today, and to use phone and email where possible.

Archant, the publisher of the EDP, has halted all deliveries until normal service resumes - which will affect correspondence from its accounts department, subscriptions and shop purchases.

A spokesman for Norwich City Council said: “For an organisation that deals with around 18,000 pieces of external and internal mail a week, ranging from council tax payments to benefit payouts, this will have quite a significant impact.”

t If you or your business is being severely affected by the strike, contact Laura Devlin on 01603 772416 or email laura.devlin@archant.co.uk.

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