Royal Mail strike set to go ahead

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London, Oct 4 (Reuters) Royal Mail postal workers are set to go ahead with planned strikes at midday today unless last-minute talks over pay and conditions are successful, a union said.

Talks between Royal Mail and the Communication Workers Union (CWU) are continuing today but if they fail, four days of strikes could stretch into next week.

Royal Mail said in a statement that talks are ongoing, but the CWU said in a statement: ''To date there is no agreed resolution. The industrial action will therefore go ahead as notified.'' The first set of 48-hour strikes is due to begin at lunchtime today and end midday on Oct 6., while the second is set to begin on Oct 8 and finish in the early hours of October 10.

Up to 130,000 of CWU's members are due to take part in the strikes.

An unspecified programme of weekly strikes, starting in the week beginning Oct. 15, is set to follow until the dispute is resolved.

Royal Mail said on its Web site that its priority would be to keep mail flowing.

CWU members voted in favour of industrial action last June in protest at Royal Mail's ''below inflation pay offer'' and plans to cut the workforce by about 40,000, or about 27 per cent, through the automation of mail-sorting processes.

Royal Mail said it needs to modernise to prevent the business from failing and that the only way it could improve pay, protect pensions and deliver customer service was by modernising.

The company is fighting private competition from rivals after losing its 350-year monopoly on postal services last year.

The growth of email, text messages and the purchase of vehicle tax discs and television licences online have also dented profits.

REUTERS PD HT1317

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