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Orkney Christmas businesses hit by Royal Mail strikes

Businesses in Orkney have said they are being hit hard by the Royal Mail strikes in the build-up to Christmas.

Negotiations between the organisation and the CWU union, over pay and conditions, have stalled.

With uncertainty over delivery dates, some business owners in Orkney are reporting a drop in online sales.

Members of the CWU are due to continue striking on Sunday as well as on 14, 15, 23 and 24 December.

Judith Glue’s knitwear shop has been a fixture on Kirkwall’s Broad Street since 1979.

She was an early pioneer of online sales in Orkney, and now sends goods worldwide via her website.

She says she has lost thousands of pounds of sales of Orcadian food hampers, as the postal strikes mean perishable items cannot be sent.

“It’s had quite a serious affect on our business,” she said.

“We made the decision to send them out in the first two weeks of December, but we’re not guaranteeing Christmas delivery.”

She said they had moved to more non-perishable items – for example less smoked salmon and farmhouse cheese.

“Sadly, this has affected our suppliers as well, as we’ve not been able to order the same quantity as other years.

“This situation has shown how essential the Royal Mail is for Orkney. I don’t think people realise how much the islands rely on the postal service.”

Martin Fleet
Image caption,Martin Fleet said the Royal Mail was a lifeline

Sheila Fleet Jewellery is also based in Kirkwall, as well as having a gallery and cafe in Tankerness.

They also send their goods globally, using Orkney’s airmail service to get the parcels to mainland Scotland.

“It’s having a profound effect on our business,” managing director Martin Fleet said.

“We rely on the Royal Mail’s special delivery service, it’s been a lifeline to us for many years.

“With the strikes coming up, our team has had to work incredibly hard to get as many parcels out as soon as we could, in order not to let any of our customers down.”

He said they supported some of the reasons behind the strike, but said it had the potential to be “absolutely devastating” to the business.

“I really hope they can find a resolution, so that the universal postal service can continue,” he said.

Last week, Royal Mail advised people to post Christmas mail earlier than usual.

The CWU said staff want a pay rise to matche the soaring cost of living and accused management of trying to “force through thousands of compulsory redundancies”.

Royal Mail plans to cut 10,000 jobs by next August, which will include 6,000 redundancies.

It wants to modernise how the business operates to accommodate a growth in parcel deliveries and the decline in letter volumes.