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Mail strike 'inevitable'.

Byline: Greg Truscott

STRIKE action from postal staff is "inevitable" if the Royal Mail fails to acknowledge the welfare of its workers, union representatives in South Wales have warned.

Morale among postmen and women is so low in that industrial action seems almost certain, according to the Communication Workers Union.

The CWU is to ballot its 150,000 members nationwide after Consignia, which runs the Royal Mail refused demands for a five per cent wage increase.

The union wants all of its postal workers to earn a minimum of pounds 300 per week.

But Consignia is only prepared to put a two per cent increase on the table, with an additional 0.5 per cent if the business meets performance targets.

In Cardiff and surrounding districts some 2,300 union members will be balloted.

Job insecurity among staff is already high after last year's announcement by Consignia that it intends to shed some 30,000 jobs nationwide.

The centralisation of postal operations to England and a ban on overtime are also causes for concern.

"Morale is very low, " said CWU branch secretary Steve Bell.

"I don't think it is too late to prevent strike action, but I think it will be inevitable if the welfare of workers is not acknowledged.

"Patience is wearing thin."

Mr Bell would not speculate on the form any industrial action might take.

Consignia said it was "bitterly disappointed" at the union's decision to hold an industrial action ballot.

Mick Linsell, managing director for service delivery, said the ballot was "premature" because there was still scope for further negotiations.

And he said Consignia is planning to involve an Acas-appointed mediator to try to resolve the dispute.

"We regret the way the union is contemplating action which could damage businesses and harm customers, " said Mr Linsell.

He said the pay offer would cost Consignia pounds 60 million, adding that postal workers could earn an extra 0.5 per cent on top of the offer of two per cent if service delivery targets were met.

Consumer watchdog Post Watch Wales hopes industrial action could be averted.

Chairman Elfion Pritchard said: "As the watchdog of the public in respect of postal services, we would be greatly dismayed if industrial action were to be taken.

"The consequences for business and for private individuals are obvious and could also impact adversely on the post office with a permanent loss of business."

Meanwhile, further strikes by Benefit Agency staff could take place later this month, bringing disruption to benefit payments.

Members of the Public and Commercial Services Union are involved in an ongoing dispute regarding the withdrawal of glass screens which protect them from violent claimants.

Union bosses will meet next week to decide whether further industrial action will take place.

Members in South Wales have already picketed offices in the region.

CAPTION(S):

LOW MORALE Postal workers at the Royal Mail's Penarth Road depot, during previous industrial action.
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Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jan 11, 2002
Words:487
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