By Arnold Bhebhe
Union bosses have castigated the “stupidity” of the Royal Mail’s threat to hire 30,000 temporary staff to fill in for those on strike as not only illegal but also costly with up to £150,000 000 per day in fines only.
The leader of the Communications Workers’ Union (CWU) which called the strike for Thursday and Friday, Bill Hayes described the move by the Royal Mail as “symptomatic of a divisive management culture.”
Talking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show, he said: “I think it is a stupid move more than anything else. It’s something that wont help resolve the dispute. It’s going to inflame things.”
Sources within the CWU have suggested that the hiring tactic Royal Mail threatens to employ may be illegal, and the GMB union leader, Paul Kenny expressing disbelief at the action said: “Those who run employment agencies need to be aware that they personally will be liable for a fine of £5,000 per person, per day for every worker they supply to Royal Mail during the trade dispute.”
Normally the company employs 15000 temporary workers towards Christmas but has decided to double that number in the face of what it terms “CWU’s unjustified and irresponsible strikes”.
Meanwhile, fears abound that the strike could take ugly dimensions of the 1984-85 miners’ strike and focus is given on possible violence at picket lines.
Resultantly,the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) has pledged to monitor the situation and has issued guidance to officers on dealing with large-scale strike action.
Adam Crozier, the Royal Mail chief executive said: ” We continue to urge the union to halt its appalling and unjustified attack on customers. At the same time, we are absolutely determined to do everything we can to minimise delays to customers’ mail.”
With householders and businesses facing huge disruptions as a result of the strike, the business secretary, Lord Mandelson expressed his fury with the union for obstructing “change and modernisation”.