Royal Mail tonight confirmed it was unable to accept any Special Deliveries due to the wildcat postal strike which has all but crippled services in Belfast.
The move came just hours after the company accused ’renegade’ Communication Workers Union representatives of misleading their members over the unlawful action, which has disrupted mail deliveries in the city for six days.
The union representatives were also accused of defying advice from CWU headquarters to end the strike, which has affected north, south and west Belfast.
Tonight Royal Mail in Northern Ireland said it was unable to accept any further Special Delivery items with immediate effect.
But it said managers will continue to make every effort to ensure Special Delivery items posted in the UK for addresses across Northern Ireland are delivered.
Mail posted in Belfast, with the exception of the east of the city, will not be delivered, regardless of destination.
Royal Mail earlier claimed that a series of bullying and harassment cases were at the centre of conduct cases which led to the dispute.
David Peden, commercial manager for Royal Mail in Northern Ireland said: “We can’t reveal any details of these cases, as we need to protect the identity of the individuals concerned, but we cannot let the CWU distort the facts any longer.
“The CWU have made the allegation that the bullying and harassment cases are all about managers bullying front line colleagues and are widely circulating questionable details in support of these claims.
“However the cases under investigation are not about managers harassing or bullying employees – the most serious cases contain allegations about colleagues harassing and threatening other colleagues,” he said.
Mr Peden added: “We believe our people are being misled by renegade CWU representatives who continue to defy the advice from their CWU headquarters to end this strike.
“We need our people to understand that they are not striking to prevent bullying and harassment – they are striking to prevent Royal Mail dealing with the cases in the appropriate manner.”
Mr Peden said Royal Mail wanted the strikers to ask themselves if they really wanted the cases to be swept under the carpet under the guise of an independent industrial relations review.
The company knew that the ‘silent majority’ would be appalled at the thought, let alone at losing wages over it, he added.
The only way forward was for them to return to work and allow the agreed procedures to be applied.
Royal Mail was ready to discuss any legitimate concerns and deal with them, but only when the strike was over – and would not negotiate the outcome of conduct or harassment cases, said Mr Peden.
Apologising to customers Royal Mail admitted that its services were now “seriously compromised” but that it was making plans to ensure that mail posted outside Belfast would be locally collected and delivered.
Mail will continue to be collected from post office branches in Belfast, but the company said very little of it was being processed.
Deliveries in east Belfast are continuing because postal staff there are continuing to work, but inevitably there is less mail for delivery than normal, said the company.
Meanwhile the Federation of Small Businesses called on the Government to intervene in the postal dispute before more damage was done to the local economy.
Enterprise Minister Angela Smith should meet both sides in the dispute to encourage agreement and an early end to the row which the FSB said was disrupting thousands of small businesses across Belfast.
Harry McGimpsey, chairman of the FSB branch in the North and West of the city, said they had already had discussions with both Royal Mail and the CWU and urged them to go the extra mile for agreement.
He said: “We are extremely concerned that there seems very little chance of seeing this dispute resolved quickly and would now urge the minister to get involved and meet with both sides to help move forward from the current stalemate situation.”
Throughout the city FSB members were facing considerable disruption to their businesses and wanted to see the strike ended before further damage was done to the local economy, he added.
“This is something that the Government cannot ignore any further,” said Mr McGimpsey.