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Online UK retailers are outlining plans to flee Royal Mail’s service following yesterday’s Communication Workers Union vote, which came out massively in favour of a national strike.

The ballot showed two thirds of posties voted "yes" for strike action. The CWU currently has 121,000 members.

The Royal Mail condemned the action as "deplorable" and "irresponsible," and it said the decision was bad for business. It pleaded with the union to call off the strike.

Auction website eBay said it had temporarily removed the option for buyers to rate sellers on the time taken to dispatch an item, and it added that the tweak to its site will remain until some time after the strike ends.

"As many of eBay’s sellers rely heavily on Royal Mail, we are working with a number of alternative postal carriers to ensure sellers can provide the levels of service that are critical in the run up to Christmas," it said in a statement.

eBay has also grumbled to the government’s biz secretary Lord Mandelson, complaining that it was "unacceptable" that its users were "victims of a dispute that is beyond their control."

Catalogue firm Argos said yesterday that it too had put contingency plans in place with Royal Mail’s competitors to try and prevent delivery disruption to its customers during and after the strike.

Games, DVD and electronics online retailer Play.com said it was in the process of working out how to deal with the Royal Mail postal strike.

"Play.com works with a network of carriers and will ensure we do all we can to maintain our award winning level of service," it said in a statement.

Similarly online DVD rental service Lovefilm.com said it was considering a shift to other carriers in light of the strike.

It gave us this wishy-washy statement: "Everyone in the UK is affected by the postal strike. As an online business, Lovefilm is in the fortunate position of being able to talk to its customers about any event in real time, come rain or shine, to minimise disruption. It’s worth remembering our service is built on a no late fees promise and is increasingly a lead provider of streamed on demand movies."

Giant online retailer Amazon confirmed yesterday it was mulling "contingency measures" to deal with Royal Mail's postal strike, but it also insisted in a carefully worded statement that no "long-term contracts" had been cancelled with the UK’s largest postal carrier.

Royal Mail staff have been grumbling throughout the year about pay levels and changes to work practices introduced by the state-owned company that are supposed to modernise the service. The overhaul has already led to several local walkouts and plenty of undelivered post.

Meanwhile, the British Chambers of Commerce slammed the CWU.

"This strike announcement defies logic at a time when businesses and government are working hard to move the UK economy back to growth. Postal delays are already hurting small businesses and major companies across the country,” said BCC’s director policy Dr Adam Marshall.

"At a time when businesses are taking drastic measures to keep as many people in employment as possible, the CWU's call for strike action in the run-up to the busy Christmas period is akin to a death-wish." ®

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