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Warehouse has an Everest of letters' claim postal staff

PUBLISHED: 17:07 14 October 2009 | UPDATED: 09:10 12 August 2010

A BACKLOG of an estimated 20 million undelivered items of mail the size of 40 buses is set to get much bigger, say workers. Royal Mail has been renting a warehouse off Sandpit Road in Dartford for nearly a month and employing agency staff to clear the

A BACKLOG of an estimated 20 million undelivered items of mail "the size of 40 buses" is set to get much bigger, say workers.

Royal Mail has been renting a warehouse off Sandpit Road in Dartford for nearly a month and employing agency staff to clear the stockpile caused by recent strikes.

Members of the Communication Workers Union (CWU) say there are more than 20 million letters and parcels at the warehouse, although company bosses place the national backlog figure at four million.

Last Thursday, the CWU reported an overwhelming yes vote in a national ballot for strike action. Union members say this will make the situation in Dartford even worse.

Speaking last Friday, a South East London spokesperson for CWU said: "It's been over 10 days since we last struck and they haven't managed to make a dent in the pile, but when this national strike starts there is going to be absolute chaos.

"The backlog will get much worse if these strikes get the go-ahead. It could take up to three weeks to clear."

He added: "I would say there is in excess of 20 million items of mail in that warehouse. The pile of mail is like a paper Everest, it's the size of at least 40 buses."

The union member, who wished to remain anonymous, added: "The problem they have got is that these agency staff are inexperienced and simply cannot work as fast as us." Out of 121,000 postal workers sent ballot papers, 76 per cent voted in favour of a national strike - which last happened in 2007. Bromley, Bexley and Greenwich residents have been affected by repeated strike action since June. Postal workers across London have taken strike action every week for the last 15 weeks.

Dave Ward, CWU deputy general secretary, said: "We need a national agreement which secures a fair deal on modernisation and reward for the efforts of postal workers in transforming the business. We want reassurances on job security, covering redundancies and full-time part-time ratios."

A Royal Mail spokesperson said: "It is nonsense to suggest a figure of 15 million backlog in Dartford as the national backlog figure is around four million and mail continues to move through our operation."

Last Tuesday, the CWU wrote to Royal Mail offering a deal to avoid strike action. If it did not accept the terms, it said "the CWU will have no option than to press ahead with issuing notice for strike action later this week".

Dave Ward, CWU deputy general secretary, said: "Postal workers do not want to have to take strike action, but neither are they prepared to put up with continuing attacks from a management which is failing.

"This is an opportunity to avoid a national strike, restore customer confidence and resolve the concerns of staff.

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