Postal workers' leaders today offered a last-ditch deal aimed at averting a strike, warning that they would have "no option" other than to press ahead with action if it is not accepted.
The Communication Workers Union wrote to the Royal Mail, saying its offer would help restore customer confidence and resolve long-running disputes over jobs, pay and work levels.
Postal workers voted by three to one in favour of industrial action and the union's leadership discussed calling strikes next week.
But the union announced today that it was giving one last chance to avert a national walkout which would cripple mail deliveries across the country.
Dave Ward, the union's deputy general secretary said: "Postal workers do not want to take strike action but neither are they prepared to put up with continuing attacks from a management which is failing.
"We have today written to Royal Mail making it clear that the CWU is ready to issue notice for a national strike as voted for by three quarters of postal workers.
"More importantly, we have offered what we believe is a genuine alternative to reach a lasting agreement.
"This is an opportunity to avoid a national strike, restore customer confidence and resolve the concerns of staff.
"If Royal Mail really is sincere about reaching an agreement we expect them to take up this offer for the interests of all involved in the mail industry."
The union said it was also campaigning for the Government to tackle the Royal Mail's multi-billion pound pension deficit.
If the Royal Mail refuses the last-ditch offer the union will announce strike dates on Thursday.
Under employment law, seven days notice of a strike will have to be given so the first walk out could happen on 22 October.
The union made it clear in the letter to Royal Mail managing director Mark Higson that it would have "no option" than to press ahead with issuing a notice for strike action later this week if progress was not made in the next few days.
Postal affairs minister Pat McFadden briefed Cabinet on the situation at the Royal Mail at today's regular weekly meeting in 10 Downing Street, informing colleagues that he was keeping in close touch with both unions and management.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown's spokesman told a daily Westminster media briefing: "Obviously it is a difficult situation and what Pat McFadden is trying to do is keep in touch with the appropriate unions - he met the CWU yesterday - and the management of the business.
"The view is that a national strike would be completely self-defeating, so Pat McFadden and the Government want to encourage the two parties to keep talking to each other and to try to settle this before it becomes a more formal dispute."Reuse content