08 February 2006

Postal strike is hit by sinister twist

Belfast Telegraph

Mail crisis deepens as unions fall out

By Deborah McAleese and Sam McBride
08 February 2006

The postal crisis deepened today with strikers steadfastly refusing to return to work amid allegations of sinister threats to a colleague and a fallout among the two unions involved.

Police today confirmed they received a report of a "suspicious" phone call to a member of staff at Royal Mail who had refused to join the strike.

A police spokeswoman said: "Police are aware of a report of a suspicious phone call that was received by a member of staff at the Royal Mail on February 1. It was reported to police for information."

Union officials said they were unaware of the alleged incident, but added that if it is true then it is "concerning."

There is also growing concern over the financial implications of the unofficial strike on postal workers and their families, but union officials said that the strikers remain adamant that they will not be returning to work until Royal Mail agrees to carry out an independent industrial relations review.

Communication Workers Union (CWU) Eoin Davey said: "If reports of the alleged phone call are true then of course I would be concerned. We would condemn any threats and have asked everyone to act sensibly. Allegations like these are putting a dark cloud over the postmen who have received so much good community report.

"We had a meeting with them this morning to urge them to go back to work as this is an unofficial strike but they are adamant that they will not be returning until Royal Mail agrees to their reasonable request."

Mr Davey today added that his union was planning to meet with the general secretary of the GMB to voice his anger at a letter which was sent to strikers.

The letter from a representative of the union GMB, which represents around 20 Royal Mail workers, stated that the strike was "sinister" and "the worst example of senseless action I have ever witnessed."

Mr Davey said the CWU has contacted the general secretary of the GMB asking him to repudiate the comments.

Meanwhile, one striker, who did not want to be named, said he is beginning to feel the financial strain.

Speaking from the picket line at Tomb Street, the 39 year-old from west Belfast added: "It is very difficult financially. It is definitely starting to bite but there is a real principle at stake here. We haven't done this lightly. I always taught my daughter to stand up to bullies so I have to stand up to the bullies here."

The strike, which initially disrupted post in north, south and west Belfast is now beginning to affect the rest of the province with the suspension of Royal Mail's special delivery service. Also, no mail posted in Northern Ireland is being delivered outside Ulster.

Financial repercussions are beginning to hit small businesses which rely on the postal service to deliver goods as well as to send and receive payments.

Postal services watchdog Postwatch said it has written to Royal Mail asking management to do more to advise customers about what was happening and what they should be doing to reduce the inconvenience caused by the strike.

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