Warning over Norfolk mail chaos

Mail deliveries in Norfolk may not return to normal for a fortnight, a union leader warned last night as the postal dispute intensified.Strikers picketed mail depots in Norwich, Dereham, Lowestoft, Yarmouth, Diss and Bungay as part of a 48-hour national strike, due to end at 3am today, involving up to 130,000 members of the Communication Workers Union (CWU).

Mail deliveries in Norfolk may not return to normal for a fortnight, a union leader warned last night as the postal dispute intensified.

Strikers picketed mail depots in Norwich, Dereham, Lowestoft, Yarmouth, Diss and Bungay as part of a 48-hour national strike, due to end at 3am today, involving up to 130,000 members of the Communication Workers Union (CWU).

The union has called further strikes starting next Monday after talks with Royal Mail failed to resolve the dispute over pay, jobs and pensions.

Mully Hill, eastern branch secretary of the CWU, said the strike had been well supported locally.

“We've had 85pc support all round Norfolk and we're really pleased. The weather has had an effect on people turning out for picket duty but not on the number going to work. There has been mass disruption throughout Norfolk and parts of Suffolk.

“The only work getting done is by managers. There will be a huge backlog. Deliveries in Norwich aren't going to return to normal for at least a fortnight.”

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He said morale among strikers was good and that they were still determined to win the dispute, which centres on Royal Mail's plans to modernise the business.

“People don't want to lose the money but they can see this is a threat to people's livelihoods, pensions and 40,000 jobs. We have got to be in it until the end now.

“It's now the eighth day of industrial action and we've got to get a deal out of it. Everyone realises how serious the situation is.

I think the public support has been better over the last four days than at the start of the dispute.”

A Royal Mail spokesman said nationally 45pc of mail was being sorted normally, and that 35,000 people were working normally during the strike.

She said backlogs nationally stood at half a day's average volumes, so it was unlikely that it would take a fortnight for Norwich deliveries to return to normal.

The company said it was “hugely disappointed and extremely concerned” that talks with the union had not resolved the dispute and that further strike action had been called.

“After a weekend of intense negotiations the CWU is still refusing to accept the flexibility that Royal Mail urgently needs if it is to modernise and survive. Royal Mail has also offered both short and longer term solutions on pay, within the 2.5pc we can afford for pay this year.”

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