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October 23, 2009

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UK postal workers go out on strike

BRITAIN'S mail service ground to a halt yesterday after tens of thousands of postal workers walked off the job in a 48-hour national strike.

Rolling walkouts that began over the summer have contributed to a backlog of some 5 million packages and letters, according to Royal Mail spokesman David Simpson.

Workers began the strikes over better pay and job protection against a plan to modernize equipment that they say will result in job losses.

About 42,000 postal staff and drivers began a 24-hour strike yesterday morning. About 78,000 delivery and collection workers plan a one-day strike today.

The Royal Mail has struggled to make money since it lost its 350-year-old monopoly, and has had to deal with falling mail volumes as customers switch to e-mail.

An independent review recommended last year that the company be partly privatized - a move the government said would not be feasible during the economic downturn.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown urged Royal Mail management and postal workers to solve the dispute. "If more and more customers leave the Royal Mail and more and more customers stop using the Royal Mail, then more jobs will be lost, so this is self-defeating," Brown said.

Online companies such as eBay have been warning customers of delays for months.

Most of the mail delays have been in London. Guarantees are still being given on special delivery services. But second-class mail such as personal letters and other types of post are often incurring the longest delays.

The Communication Workers Union, which represents 120,000 people, has said it may call further strikes.


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