Talks between Royal Mail and the union aimed at avoiding this week’s strikes by postal workers are due later today.
They come after the Communication Workers Union attacked Royal Mail’s decision to hire up to 30,000 temporary workers to clear the backlog of undelivered post from recent strikes as “a stupid move”.
The CWU has called nationwide 24-hour strikes in different departments on Thursday and Friday over pay, conditions and postal reforms.
On Thursday, 22 October, mail centre staff and drivers will strike. The next day it will be delivery and collection staff.
Management said the extra workers would reduce the impact of “unjustified and irresponsible” industrial action.
The extra workers will deal with the backlog caused by the strikes as well as helping with the Christmas rush, the BBC reports.
Employing extra people to do the work of staff who are on strike is illegal. Royal Mail said the recruitment drive was not about bringing in workers to do the work of striking staff, but to ensure there were enough staff to clear any backlogs between walkouts, as well as tackle the seasonal increase in mail volume.
However, the CWU warned that it might take legal action against Royal Mail for hiring the temporary workers. A union spokeswoman said it was illegal to employ staff to cover the work of strikers.
Billy Hayes, the leader of the Communication Workers Union clashed publicly with Lord Myners, the City minister, according to the Times.
During an appearance on The Andrew Marr Show on BBC One, Myners told Hayes that customers would be driven elsewhere because of the two-day strike. “You are placing your members’ jobs at risk if you don’t get back to the negotiating table,” he said.
Hayes, who used a weekend interview with the Times to declare that he is stronger than Arthur Scargill, and the National Union of Mineworkers were in the 1980s, has been infuriated by the recruitment of temporary staff. He said: “It’s going to inflame things. We’re about resolving the dispute, and that’s what I want to do.”