Two-day postal strike begins

The first nationwide postal strike in two years has begun after talks between Royal Mail and the Communication Workers Union (CWU) broke down.

Mail centre staff and drivers began a 24-hour walkout at 0400 BST. Delivery and collection staff will strike on Friday with more strike dates expected.

Union leaders have blamed Business Secretary Lord Mandelson and Royal Mail chiefs for the failure to reach a deal.

But ministers say the suggestion that an agreement was vetoed is “fantasy”.

The CWU said the business secretary had worked with Royal Mail to “undermine the dispute”.

However, postal minister Pat McFadden described the strike as “tragic” saying the union had failed to give clear reasons why it was going ahead with the action.

Royal Mail had earlier issued a plea for a “strike-free period of calm” in the run-up to Christmas, saying industrial action would bring “huge damage and distraction” and cause “pain and disruption” for customers.

The decision to go ahead with strike action came after more than 30 hours of talks between Royal Mail and the union this week.

Some companies, including John Lewis and Amazon, have said they are using alternative delivery services.

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