As employees' leaders and management agreed an end to the unofficial action in the capital, strikers' representatives and senior union officers warned that a national walkout was now "virtually inevitable".
The warnings come after a year of trench warfare at the Royal Mail during which its 160,000 workers were responsible for almost one in three days lost in British industry through industrial action.
The Communications Workers' Union has given management until Wednesday to issue guarantees on the future of services that form the root cause of most of the action. Union officials believe managers are running down the second postal delivery and plan to employ many more casual staff at the expense of full-time employees.
If the Royal Mail fails to give the assurances sought, a motion will be tabled at a meeting of the national executive of the UCW next week calling for a ballot on nation-wide strikes.
Alan Johnson, moderate general secretary of the union, said yesterday he was optimistic that the talks on service standards would produce an agreement, but an increasing number of UCW officers are predicting that official action will begin by the end of February.
Mr Johnson is facing a groundswell of opinion on UCW's powerful national postal committee which wants to "take management on".Reuse content