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WINTER OF DISCONTENT

BRITAIN is facing a &ldquo;winter of discontent&rdquo; with strikes looming at Royal Mail, British Airways, Irish carrier Aer Lingus, and electronics giant Fujitsu.<br /><br />Staff at Royal Mail yesterday voted three to one in favour of a national strike, which is set to bring misery to businesses over the Christmas period, while costing London hundreds of millions of pounds.<br /><br />&ldquo;Industrial action by postal workers in 2007 cost the capital more than &pound;304m,&rdquo; the London Chamber of Commerce said yesterday. &ldquo;These strikes look set to be even more damaging.&rdquo;<br /><br />It added that the decision to strike was &ldquo;akin to a death wish&rdquo; for the ailing postal service.<br /><br />The Communication Workers Union (CWU) said 81,000 members voted 3-1 in favour of striking over job security and working conditions. But Royal Mail claimed 60 per cent of UK postal workers did not take part in the vote.<br /><br />Employers&rsquo; organisation the CBI also slammed the plans, and said strike action would be &ldquo;disappointing&rdquo;.<br /><br />&ldquo;After a very tough year, serious disruption to the postal service would present a real threat to those firms pinning their hopes on a pre-Christmas sales bounce,&rdquo; said CBI director general John Cridland. &ldquo;We need common sense to prevail and lasting damage to be avoided.&rdquo;<br /><br />Royal Mail and its unions have failed to reach a compromise on how best to modernise the postal service. The CWU has now given the company 10 days as a &ldquo;final opportunity&rdquo; to make concessions.<br /><br />Meanwhile, the Unite union is set to ballot staff at IT firm Fujitsu next Monday on industrial action over a dispute about pension packages. Unite says proposed changes to the firm&rsquo;s pension scheme amount to a 20 per cent pay cut for staff members.<br /><br />And the airline industry is also facing misery over the winter, as Aer Lingus and BA brace themselves for the possibility of strike action over job cuts.