Postal workers begin two 48-hour strikes

Pickets at Ardwick, Manchester, June 2007

Royal Mail workers have started the first of two 48-hour walkouts over pay and conditions since the suspension of strike action for talks in August.

Last-minute talks between Royal Mail managers and the Communication Workers Union (CWU) failed to reach a deal, and the strike started at noon. A second two-day strike is scheduled to begin at 3am on Monday, 8 October, after which rolling strikes will occur on a weekly basis with different functions on different days.

As well as a below inflation pay offer, Royal Mail plans to introduce over 20 'strings', including flexible working time and other measures which many postal workers see as a full assault on both the job itself and service to customers.

Rolling strikes led to wildcats across Scotland and the North of England when workers were suspended after refusing to cross picket lines or process blacked mail.

Half way through the scheduled official action, Royal Mail and the CWU jointly announced further negotiations and a 'period of calm'. During this time Royal Mail has victimised many posties 'working-to-rule', including sackings and docked pay, and has begun to push measures which were under negotiation through by executive action - bypassing negotiations with the union.

Despite the victimisation of posties, only one or two offices have taken unofficial action during the period of calm, but the widespread dissatisfaction with the CWU leadership of Billy Hayes and Dave Ward has put pressure on them to announce further official strike action.

CWU deputy general secretary, Dave Ward, said "[the strikes are] a proportionate response to an employer that is completely out of control. Despite five weeks of negotiations, Royal Mail have failed to take on board the union's message that, in order for the business to succeed, Royal Mail need to invest in their workforce.