Strikes that spell misery for hundreds of thousands of people this week are set to worsen as Royal Mail staff threaten new wildcat stoppages which could delay millions of Christmas cards and presents.
A further 1,000 Royal Mail delivery staff could take unofficial industrial action as a separate five-day strike by 3,000 Crown post office workers starts on Monday, The Telegraph can reveal, at a time when the service is creaking under the weight of festive demand.
It comes at the start of a week of strike chaos with conductors on rail network Southern set to stop trains south of London on Monday and Tuesday, and more stoppages by British Airways baggage handlers and cabin crew over the weekend frustrating many attempting to get home for Christmas.
Pressure is growing on Theresa May to bring forward Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting to discuss how to ease the crisis.
Senior Tory figures are calling on the Prime Minister to consider legislation to end the misery after Sir Patrick McLoughlin, a former transport secretary, described the action as politically motivated.
David Mellor, once a Tory minister, said that her inaction means the description of Theresa May as the new Margaret Thatcher is as wide of the mark as it could possibly be.
Meanwhile, Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, is expected to issue a statement backing the striking post office workers after senior members of his shadow cabinet spoke out in support of action.
Monday’s strike by 3,000 workers over concerns about pensions and the future of the network will see 90 per cent of the UK’s 300 Crown post offices closed.
The situation now looks set to be worse than anticipated with 1,000 postmen and women from Royal Mail expected to refuse to cross the picket line and collect from the strike-hit branches.
The branches affected are typically situated on high streets and handle about a fifth of the UK’s 13 billion letters and parcels posted each year.
Customers trying to post presents ahead of the last posting days – Tuesday for second-class post and Wednesday for first-class mail – are likely to be frustrated.
A source told The Telegraph that the strike would cause absolute chaos and would have a huge impact on postal services in the run up to Christmas” with a “bottleneck on the system” created by customers trying to find an open branch to post Christmas cards and presents before the last posting dates.
Sources said that if the wildcat action was punished by managers then Royal Mail unions may also formally ballot for strike action.
Royal Mail insisted it would not change the final posting dates and was forecasting little or no impact on Royal Mail as a result of the CWU strike at the Post Office, while Post Office Limited stressed that it was business as usual in almost all of our network.
Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of commuters on Southern Rail face further disruption as conductors strike in the stand-off over control of train doors.
Disruption will continue on Monday and Tuesday and begin again in the new year, with little sign of a settlement despite months of unrest. Three separate industrial disputes at airports are also set to start this week affecting countless more Christmas travellers.
Thousands of British Airways cabin crew have backed strikes on Christmas Day and Boxing Day. About 1,500 check-in staff, baggage handlers and cargo crew will walk out on Dec 23 and Dec 24.
Attention will shift to Acas, where managers and union leaders will discuss the post office strike and BA stoppages. But the last-ditch attempt at resolution comes amid further concern about rising union militancy.
It emerged over the weekend that Sean Hoyle, the president of the RMT union co-ordinating strikes on Southern, told a meeting that his number one rule was to strike to replace the capitalist system with a socialist order adding that if we all spit together we can drown the b.
Sir Gerald Howarth, a former defence minister, called for Mrs May to bring forward the regular Cabinet meeting so the crisis could be discussed by ministers on Monday.
Mrs May is understood to be reluctant to table emergency legislation strengthening the rules regarding when unions can take industrial action.