Thousands of Royal Mail workers in the North East will go on strike next month for the first time in four years.
The 24-hour walkout on November 4, which is being planned by Communication Workers Union (CWU), is the result of a row with Royal Mail regarding pay and pensions for workers.
The action of 19,000 workers from across the region threatens to disrupt the busy Christmas period if no settlements is reached between Royal Mail and CWU.
CWU representative for the North East, Paul Clays, says the action could be averted if the company agrees a legally binding agreement that secures postal workers’ job security, pay and pensions.
He said: “It just shows how frustrated the staff are with their working conditions if they are willing to go on strike.
“We want to protect the future of Royal Mail and we want to look after the public and our workforce.
“There are 19,000 Royal Mail workers and they could potentially all go on strike on November 4. There will of course be no post service on that day and no provisions will be made.
“We are hoping that it doesn’t have to come to an actual strike. There have been talks about coming to a settlement, so we can only hope that an agreement can be made in the lead up to November.
“However if nothing is done, I fully suspect all of the workers of the North East will support the decision to strike.”
Following news that Royal Mail was valued at £10bn by American bank JP Morgan - three times the float figure of £3.3bn - the CWU is calling for Business Secretary Vince Cable to resign.
Mr Clays said: “If someone sold my car for £8,000 less than it was worth, then that person would be sacked. Mr Cable’s action is no different and it has left the British public seriously out of pocket.”
A CWU ballot of around 115,000 of its members returned a four to one decision in favour of industrial action.
But a recent survey commissioned by Royal Mail showed that 72% of the British public said that the CWU should accept the pay offer from Royal Mail and call off the plans to strike.
Royal Mail said in a statement that it was “very disappointed” by the announcement and that “any action, or the threat of disruption, is damaging to business reputation, especially in the run up to Christmas, the busiest time.”
Ross Smith, director of policy at the North East Chamber of Commerce said the strike would be disruptive to the region’s businesses.
He said: “This strike, coming at the start of the busiest period for deliveries, will cause a real headache for many businesses trying to get orders to customers promptly. It will also mean delays to some payments and other vital correspondence.
“Hopefully we won’t see a series of strikes, which would be massively counter-productive.”