Mandelson in warning over post strikes

THE finances of state-owned Royal Mail will dive into the red if a planned national strike by workers goes ahead this week, business secretary Lord Mandelson said yesterday.<br /><br />Thousands of postal workers will stage strikes organised by the Communication Workers Union on Thursday and Friday this week in a dispute over pay, jobs and modernisation at the company.<br /><br />Talks are ongoing between the company and union to try to stop the action which would cripple deliveries and embarrass the Labour government<br /><br />&ldquo;Royal Mail&rsquo;s finances will be plunged into the red. Last year the company, out of a &pound;6.7bn mail business turnover, made less than one per cent profit,&rdquo; Mandelson told parliament.<br /><br />&ldquo;One thing this company cannot afford is strikes and industrial action.&rdquo;<br /><br />CWU general secretary Billy Hayes said Mandelson&rsquo;s comments would damage the negotiations.<br /><br />&ldquo;The union remains in talks and is working hard for an agreement,&rdquo; he said in a statement.<br /><br />The Royal Mail&rsquo;s business has suffered in recent years as consumers and industry switch to the internet or more specialised postal services to exchange information, services and goods.<br /><br />The government wants to sell up to 30 per cent of the company to make it more competitive but has had to shelve those plans after opposition from workers and <br />Labour politicians.<br /><br />Mandelson said without embracing change, the Royal Mail faced &ldquo;terminal decline,&rdquo; adding that strikes would not solve the dispute but would drive customers away and put small firms in jeopardy just as economy conditions appeared to be improving.<br /><br />&ldquo;Strikes are not the way to resolve differences or safeguard the future of our postal services,&rdquo; he said.