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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Les postiers britanniques démarrent leur grève national

by London Special Correspondant Peter Avis

British postal workers begin national strike

Translated Wednesday 28 October 2009, by Clare Faulder and reviewed by Clare Faulder

The already extremely unpopular privatisation of the Royal Mail now comes up against the mobilisation of public sector workers opposed to the ruinous effects it will have in terms of jobs.

Some 120,000 British postal workers decided to stop work for two days, starting a long-expected strike action yesterday to save jobs, increase salaries and defend the oldest public service in the country. At the same time, last-gasp negotiations between the Communication Workers Union (CWU) and Royal Mail management broke down, which has already caused the postal workers to schedule a further three day strike for the end of next week.

Royal Mail management is obviously tempted to force an outcome: it announced a few days ago the immediate employment of 30,000 temporary, untrained workers in order to break the action already underway at regional level with numerous localised walk-outs. Some 42,000 sorting office workers kicked off the action yesterday. They will be joined today by their 78,000 collection and delivery worker colleagues.

Postal workers oppose the reorganisation prompted by the Government’s privatisation project, which is currently deferred due to the opposition of 140 Labour MPs. The most profitable sectors of the postal service are targeted by the project. And Royal Mail management continues to head in this direction, undaunted by proceeding with job cuts. In total, a further 60,000 jobs are threatened, following a first round of 40,000 job cuts over two years.

The union accepts the importance of modernising the service, but it denounces the Government’s method. It intends to go through Acas, the national industrial relations conciliation service.

One hundred MPs — mainly Labour — have appealed to the Government to do all it can “in order to ensure that the Royal Mail responds positively to the union’s proposals for conciliation”. But the Government and Enterprise Minister Lord Peter Mandelson are not budging for the moment, except to condemn the action.

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