Postal strikers turn over new leaf

The number of days lost through industrial action at the traditionally strike-happy Post Office last year sank to its lowest for 10 years, despite the loss of more than 13,000 jobs.

Royal Mail Group, the Post Office’s parent, said yesterday that 64 days were lost last month, when the average number of days worked rose during the busy Christmas season to 4m a day from the normal 1m a day.

In 2002 the number of days lost, mainly through unofficial action among the 170,000-strong workforce, dropped to 7,400. In previous years the Post Office won the unenviable title of Britain’s most strike-prone organisation, responsible for nearly half of the working days lost in the country.

In the financial year 2001-02, about 53,000 days were lost through strike action and a year earlier 63,000 days were lost as local offices took unofficial action against changes to working practices.

The improved record was as cribed by both management and union to a series of recommendations for changing industrial relations from Lord Sawyer, former Labour party general secretary and union official, about 18 months ago.

John Keggie, deputy leader of the main postal union, the CWU, which once struggled to contain wildcat strikes, said: “Our members don’t want to go on strike but were forced into responding as management was making decisions on the hoof without consultation. The Sawyer proposals changed that.”

Royal Mail, which is shedding 30,000 jobs, had helped by agreeing to make all redundancies voluntary – and deferring outsourcing of business units, “a backdoor privatisation”, until 2007.

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