15 February 2006

Moves to end mail strike continue


Striking postal workers march through Belfast

Efforts are continuing to bring a two-week long postal strike by Belfast workers to a close.

Members of the Communication Workers Union are still considering an offer made by Royal Mail on Monday night.

This would allow a third party to look at future relations between management and employees. It also includes a 12-month ban on industrial action.

Ulster Unionist leader Sir Reg Empey wants the government to intervene to stem damage to the economy.

Sir Reg urged economy minister Angela Smith to get involved in settling the strike.

"This is causing some really significant economic damage," he said.

"Under those circumstances and because of the fact that the longer a thing like this goes on, the harder it is to solve, it seems to me that the minister has a duty to do what she can to help the different parties along."


Earlier on Tuesday, several hundred striking post office staff and their supporters took part in a city centre rally.

It was organised by the Belfast and District Trade Unions Council, which said it wholeheartedly supported the postal workers.

CWU Belfast branch secretary Eoin Davey said the turn out showed the support that the postal workers were getting.

"The postal workers are determined to stay out until Royal Mail accepts what are reasonable terms for an employee," he said.

"There is nobody out there who doesn't believe that what is being asked for by the postal workers is not acceptable."

Peter Donaghy, a member of the CWU national executive, said no offers were officially accepted or rejected as discussions were ongoing.


On Monday night, Royal Mail said that if the strikers returned to work immediately, it would engage an independent third party to "improve employee relations".

Workers at Tomb Street in Belfast began an unofficial strike on 31 January after staff alleged harassment by managers. Royal Mail denied the claims.

Mail deliveries have been disrupted with Belfast the worst affected area.

One of the striking Belfast workers' key demands has been an independent review of disciplinary procedures.

Royal Mail personnel director Gary Crawford said it was "completely unacceptable that customers continued to suffer".

He said the company had agreed to a third party to help move industrial and employee relations forward.

"We have also said that we will address any individual employee concerns, of any kind, but this can only be done when there is a return to normal working," he said.

"This morning (Tuesday), Royal Mail management further clarified and amended a set of words that appeared to be the basis for agreement - fully meeting the specific request of the CWU.

"We are now left wondering what the outstanding issues may be."

Royal Mail said customers needing more information and advice could contact its helpline number on 08457 740740.

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