Thousands of UK postal workers have begun a 48 hour national strike in a long-running dispute over pay, jobs and modernisation plans.Collection and sorting staff as well as drivers are expected to support the action which is likely to cause major disruption. The Communication Workers Union blames the Royal Mail bosses and the government for failing to act. Union representative Dave Ward said: “The real truth behind this dispute is that Lord Mandelson – in cahoots with the people who are running the company appointed by this government – clearly feel that it is pay-back time, because we defeated them on their proposal on privatisation.” Earlier this year Business Secretary Lord Mandelson was forced by political and union opposition to shelve plans to make the company more competitive.
Today’s action is set to embarrass an increasingly unpopular Labour government.Conservative leader David Cameron accused Prime Minister Gordon Brown of weakness as he addressed MPs: “He says there is no connection between the strikes we see and the weakness he showed in withdrawing that Bill – well does he agree with me that since the government abandoned part privatisation of the Royal Mail, union militancy has got worse?” Gordon Brown retaliated by accusing Cameron of trying to bring Royal Mail industrial relations into the political arena. More strikes are planned but around 30,000 temporary staff have been hired by managers to cope with any resulting backlog of post. Royal Mail’s business has declined by 10 percent annually as customers switch to the internet and specialised postal services.