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Postal strike: Gordon Brown says strike is 'self-defeating'
The Prime Minister urged Royal Mail management and postal workers to get "round the table" to solve the dispute for the sake of Royal Mail's future.
Speaking during a visit to Wakefield, West Yorkshire, Mr Brown said: "If more and more customers leave the Royal Mail and more and more customers stop using the Royal Mail, then more jobs will be lost, so this is self-defeating.
"I think, instead of striking, the workers and the management should be sitting round the table getting an end to this strike.
"I believe that by discussing and negotiating and, if necessary, bringing in an arbitrator like Acas, we can get a solution to this problem."
Asked if the Government was doing enough, the Prime Minister said: "We're doing what we can to make possible the resumption of talks between the management and the workforce.
"The only way to solve an industrial dispute is by the management and workforce getting together.
"This strike is soluble and I believe that management and the workforce can reach a solution to this and they should do this as quickly as possible."
His comments came after the two-day walkout began at 4am today in protest over pay, working conditions and the Royal Mail's plans to modernise the service, with more action planned in the run up to Christmas.
The Communication Workers Union (CWU) said this morning's walkout was "solidly supported", but as workers joined picket lines shadow business secretary Kenneth Clarke warned the Conservatives would privatise the Royal Mail if the party wins the next general election.
Mr Clarke said the company needed private capital and private management to bring it up to date and change it from being "old-fashioned".
CWU deputy general secretary Dave Ward repeated his claim that a "form of words" was agreed during marathon talks earlier this week, claiming the progress was "wiped out" by a last-minute intervention from Royal Mail managing director Mark Higson.
Mr Ward told GMTV that Lord Mandelson had "misrepresented" the dispute and was "frankly telling untruths".
He claimed the minister was affected by the collapse of his plan to part-privatise the Royal Mail, adding: "He is putting personal setbacks in front of settling the dispute."
Up to 42,000 mail centre staff and network drivers launched a 24-hour strike today, while 78,000 delivery and collection workers will walk out tomorrow.
Postal workers who joined a picket line in Aston, Birmingham said they hoped the action would help resolve the long-running dispute.
Steve Reid, Birmingham district branch of the CWU, said the way workers had been treated by Royal Mail was "appalling", adding: "People are saying we are against modernisation but we are not. More than 60,000 jobs have gone from this business in the last five years in agreement with the union.
"That's not a union against modernisation. What we want to do is get Royal Mail fit for the 21st century, but it's got to be through agreement, not dictatorship or imposition."
The Royal Mail condemned the decision to go ahead with the "wholly unjustified" strikes and said it was willing to keep on talking, although officials warned there would now be delays to mail deliveries.
Lord Mandelson said he deeply regretted the strike decision, adding that industrial action was not in the best interests of the Royal Mail, the work force or "hard pressed" consumers and businesses.
Mr Clarke told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that the Royal Mail was "broke" and its future had to involve a change of culture to stop business "draining away".
He said the Royal Mail was becoming a "total disaster", attacking the Prime Minister for "changing his mind" over the stalled part-privatisation plans.
The strike is likely to cause far more chaos than previously thought because just "a few hundred" of the 30,000 temporary workers, controversially hired to help the company beat the strike, are ready to start work.
The Daily Telegraph has learnt that just a handful will be working this week, and barely a quarter of the 30,000 will be able to start work next week, because most of the staff have yet to be fully vetted and are not allowed to handle mail.
By Nick Collins and Alastair Jamieson