Mail Piles Up as Strikes Continue

Millions of Royal Mail letters and parcels yet to be delivered.

by staff writer
- Sep 23, 2009

Recent postal employee strikes have left an estimated 20 million Royal Mail letters and parcels undelivered in London alone and it's unknown when items will reach their destinations.

Union members have been striking on and off since the end of in June to protest layoffs and pay cuts. Since strikes began, some residents have gone up to 10 days in a row without mail, according to news reports. Strikes are continuing this week.

eBay U.K. advises sellers to "notify customers that there will likely be delays to their purchases arriving. Expect a minimum of two to three days delay for mail in [affected] districts, although it may well take until the following week for services to resume to normal."

Mail delivery could be backed up even more if postal workers vote to hold a national strike in October. The Communication Workers Union, which represents Royal Mail postal workers, sent out ballots to its members Sept. 17. The results are expected to be released by Oct. 8.

Royal Mail officials called the threat of a national strike counterintuitive to what the CWU claims to be fighting for.

"[It's beyond] belief that the CWU says that the disruption caused by the CWU strike is hurting customers, yet at the same time calls a national strike ballot to step up the damage they are already inflicting on customers, big and small," asserts Mark Higson, Royal Mail's managing director, in reports. "While the amount of delayed mail is a fraction of the daily mail bag, we are concerned about every letter and we apologize wholeheartedly to customers for the difficulties caused by CWU strikes."

According to the CWU, the decision to strike wasn't something postal workers considered lightly.

"Royal Mail is rolling out… changes with little or no concern for the views or interests of our members, the hard-working postal staff who deliver to every address in the U.K. year-round," says a statement on the union's Web site. "Worse still, we have seen an alarming rise in bullying and harassment cases with managers using the [slimmest] of reasons to sack postal workers with long service."

Mail customers have begun looking for alternative means to deliver their items, including couriers, according to marketing company LinkDirect.

The Federation of Small Businesses reports that 70 percent of companies use Royal Mail to send out invoices and payments, and consumers could face up to 150 million pounds in late fees as a result of the undelivered mail.

According to news reports, 2,500 post offices have closed and 40,000 postal workers have lost their jobs over the last two years. Royal Mail says the changes were "essential to respond to the changing market," and has pushed modernization to combat low mail volume.

"We recognize that every item posted is important to our customers. We have strong contingency plans in operation in London, and we're concentrating all our resources on minimizing disruption," Royal Mail says in a statement.

About the Author

Auctiva staff writers constantly monitor trends and best practices of those selling on eBay and elsewhere online. They attend relevant training seminars and trade shows and regularly discuss the market with PowerSellers and other market experts.

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