Latest on the postal strike

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The second phase of the postal strike is now underway and is set to continue until Saturday.

The CWU has said further strike action for longer periods of time is not out of the question.

UK Mail said it has seen a ten to 20 per cent increase in mail enquiries since the onset of strike action, however it said it is difficult to quantify as there is usually a general boost at this time of year, and it has recently won some new contracts.

A spokesperson from the company said: “Our approach throughout all previous strike activity has been ‘business as usual’ with us continuing to deliver mail into all Royal Mail centres around the UK.  We hope that the dispute is resolved as quickly as possible for the sake of our customers and mail users as a whole.”

The spokesperson continued: “The strike action is damaging to mail as a medium and disrupts our customers’ businesses. UK Mail is keen to maintain a good working relationship with the Royal Mail and the CWU as our postal business relies on working in partnership with the postmen and post women for the final mile delivery – who we believe to be the ‘jewel in the crown’.

“This is a business model UK Mail intends to stick with in the future as we believe it is the best service option for customers.

“UK Mail believes that there are wide ranging and complex issues at the heart of this dispute which should be seen within the context of the Royal Mail’s need to modernise in response to a changing commercial climate. Royal Mail and the CWU should be pulling together to make that change happen.

Impact of the strike

Thursday: Main impact on mail centres and network distribution units.
Limited processing, movement and collection of ordinary mail (if local collections performed by staff at a Mail Centre).

Friday: Main impact on delivery offices and collection units.

Limited delivery and collection of ordinary mail (if local collections performed by staff at the Delivery Office).

Royal Mail has also set out its contingency plans:

* Keeping mail moving – some 900 managerial and contract drivers will move mail around the country.

* Delivering mail – prioritising and Special Delivery and Royal Mail Tracked mail on strike days, though there are no guarantees.

* Use of around 5000 managerial and support people to maintain premium services.

* Support the distribution of goods – five additional dedicated sorting centres in place to aid the distribution of packets through the network.

* Targeted service recovery plan – concentrating managerial and support resources on affected areas to deliver mail after the strikes.

Long term effects

A survey by IMRG (Interactive Media In Retail Group) of its retail members has revealed that 77 per cent of them believe that strike action by the CWU may discourage consumers from shopping online in the run up to Christmas.

It also found that some 79 per cent of those retailers offering alternative delivery arrangements would be absorbing any additional costs in an effort to minimise the impact on their customers, while 67 per cent were taking steps to fully inform their online shoppers of potential delays on their websites at the time of order.

And 61 per cent of the retailers said they were already receiving enquiries from consumers about delivery arrangements in relation to the strike action.

David Smith, IMRG’s director of operations, said: “E-commerce sales are set to top £50bn in 2009, even through the recession, but a strike of this nature has the potential to do significant harm to online retail sales. Up to now 86 per cent of the retailers surveyed have used Royal Mail for at least some of their deliveries but this option is being taken from them and 60 per cent have already made alternative arrangements to by-pass Royal Mail to protect their customers. For Royal Mail the impact of this industrial action is going to be disastrous.”

* The Scottish government has just awarded an £8 million contract to TNT for second class post in a move that it says will save tax payers millions. Royal Mail will however continue to handle first class mail aftersigning a £17 million contract.

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