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Postal workers in UK begin 48-hour strike in row over pay, working conditions

Members of the Communication Workers Union are seen in Camden, London, November 24, 2022. (Via Getty Images)

Postal workers at Britain's Royal Mail on Wednesday started a fresh 48-hour strike in protest over pay and working conditions, the latest in a series of strikes involving 115,000 workers across the country.

The Communications Workers Union (CWU), which represents the workers, says it wants pay rise that matches the cost of living amid soaring inflation.

Royal Mail says it has made a revised pay offer but adding that "no talks are happening".

Postal workers in the country walked out on Thursday and Friday last week, and another wave of strikes is planned in the run-up to Christmas - on 9, 11, 14, 15, 23 and 24 December.

Clara Challoner Walker, who runs the soap company Cosy Cottage in Malton, Yorkshire, said the strikes had a huge impact on her business.

She said she uses Royal Mail because it is too expensive to send relatively small orders of soap and skin care via courier companies. She said the strikes could hurt businesses during the "critical" Christmas trading period.

On strike days, Royal Mail is unable to deliver first and second class mail, but will deliver parcels and special letters.

The dispute began in summer after Royal Mail rejected union demands for a pay rise in line with inflation and a cost increase.

The union also opposes proposed changes to working conditions, such as ending the payment of some allowances and introducing compulsory work on Sundays.

Royal Mail has since offered a pay-as-you-go deal it says is worth up to 9% over 18 months, calling it its “best and final offer.” But the CWU said the proposal was a real blow to the livelihoods of postal workers and urged the public to stand by the post office.

 Mark Dolan, London representative for CWU, said it was the 11th day of strike action by postal workers and called it a move to save the British institution. “We're not prepared to stand by and watch this great public service tuned into another gig economy service where they want to get rid of the current workforce and replace them with workers on 20% less money and less terms and conditions than we currently have.”

Royal Mail is facing fierce competition from courier companies and is losing close to a million pounds a day.

Earlier this month, it asked the government to allow it to stop delivering mail on Saturdays because of heavy losses for the first half of the year.

It wants to move from a six-days-a-week letter delivery to five, from Monday to Friday only. However, parcel services would continue to run all days of the week.

The latest strike will affect London and four other regions of England as the ambulance service joins nurses across most of Britain in a similar strike action over government pay offers, which fall well short of the double-digit inflation.

Numerous other public and private-sector staff, from lawyers to airport ground personnel, has also held strikes this year as the UK faces its highest inflation and worst cost-of-living crisis in generations.

Meanwhile, British media reports said health and defense officials are drawing up a contingency strategy to invoke the Military Aid to the Civil Authorities protocol (MACA) to keep key services running as ambulance drivers and paramedics vote on whether to join the strike action.

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