Royal Mail will stop all Saturday letter deliveries until further notice due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The firm will ‘temporarily’ cut back its services from this weekend as the country continues to grapple the deadly bug.
People will face waiting up to two days for their letters as the post already does not come on Sundays.
But most parcels – including Tracked, Special Delivery and non-account services – will not be impacted by the move and postmen will pick up from branches and post boxes as normal.
It comes as union leaders are encouraging posties to call in sick rather than risk catching coronavirus during their daily rounds.
And on Wednesday postmen will take part in the annual National Postal Workers Day, where they pat themselves on the back for their work.
Royal Mail has scrapped all Saturday letter deliveries until further notice due to the coronavirus pandemic (file photo)
The Communication Workers’ Union, which represents postal workers, has hit out at the cancelled Saturday letters deliveries and hinted strikes could follow.
A spokesman told the Mirror: ‘We will be seeking urgent discussions with the government on this issue.
‘The reduction of the Universal Service Obligation was a key factor in our live national strike ballot.
‘The last thing we want to do is call strike action at this point but we will not sit back and see our members’ jobs put at threat and the service to the public worsened.’
Last month the union tried to lobby for home deliveries to be reduced to three days a week, with postmen dropped off items on alternate days. But this was shelved.
Chief customer officer Nick Landon said postmen have faced ‘incredible pressure’ and ‘need some relief’ in a video shared with workers.
He said in the footage: ‘We want to lessen the load for deliveries across that weekend, making us focus on the parcels to clear all of that traffic.’
A Royal Mail delivery man does his rounds in Richmond on Tuesday. But the Communications Workers Union is encouraging its workers to call in sick rather than risk catching the coronavirus
A Royal Mail statement said online: ‘Our postmen and postwomen are working very hard across the UK in challenging conditions.
‘As we said at the start of the coronavirus crisis, there will be some disruption to services.
‘Relevant factors include high levels of coronavirus-related absences and necessary social distancing measures.
‘We understand the importance of the postal service in keeping the UK connected at this time. We have also listened to our hard-working colleagues who have asked us to ease the additional burden on them if possible.
‘As a result, we are making some temporary changes to postal services.
‘Customers should continue to post both letters and parcels as usual on Saturday. We will continue our Saturday collections from businesses, post offices and post boxes as normal.
‘From 2 May we will temporarily no longer deliver letters on a Saturday. We will continue to provide a letter delivery service from Monday to Friday as normal. We will continue to deliver Special Delivery, Tracked, all non-account services and most other parcels from Monday to Saturday across the country.’
Royal Mail workers were designated as key workers to keep deliveries flowing during the pandemic.
But ministers have stopped short of accepting a CWU proposal for them to be the ‘fifth emergency service’ and deliver essential supplies such as food and medicines’.
A CWU spokesman told the Telegraph: ‘It’s not right that postal workers should be risking their lives to deliver pointless junk mail, shopping offers and water pistols.
‘If the Government doesn’t accept our offer, in three weeks we will have to look again at our support for the key worker status.’
Royal Mail has introduced new rules to keep staff apart in depots and van sharing has also been put on hold during the pandemic.
Rico Back, Group Chief Executive Officer, Royal Mail, said: ‘We are focused on protecting our people, company and the communities we serve during this unprecedented crisis. We are putting the health and well-being of colleagues and customers first.
‘At the same time, we are delivering the parcels and letters that are a lifeline for those who cannot leave their homes.’
National Postal Workers Day is an annual event organised by the CWU to promote the work its members do throughout the year.
A union spokesman said: ‘We are living in unprecedented times but one thing always remains constant – the significant role our members play in every community in the UK.
‘This year we are calling on the public, media and politicians to give a greater level of recognition to postal workers than ever before.
‘Despite hugely challenging times, CWU members are keeping the country connected.
‘From delivering essential items to checking on the elderly and taking shopping to the most vulnerable in society, we have seen thousands of examples of local postal workers stepping up.’
The union has criticised Royal Mail for continuing to insist advertising mail is delivered and said senior managers were refusing to meet regularly with the CWU.
The spokesman added: ‘Postal Workers across the country are doing a fantastic job. It is sad that senior management have not recognised the efforts of our members but the public have.
‘The sight of posters in windows, drinks left on doorsteps or even a simple ‘thank you’ mean the world to our members.’
Shane O’Riordain, managing director of marketing, regulation and corporate affairs at Royal Mail, said: ‘We have committed over £25 million to buying equipment such as hand sanitiser, disposable gloves and other additional protective measures to keep our people safe as they keep the UK connected during the ongoing lockdown.
‘This includes distributing half a million bottles of hand sanitiser through our operation in recent weeks.
‘As well as increasing supplies of hand sanitiser, soap, cleaning equipment and disposable gloves, we have used this significant cash sum to source face masks for those who want them.
‘Marketing mail is an important way of paying for the universal service. It accounts for about one in every seven pounds of the money we generate in the UK. In relation to Covid-19, this revenue is vitally important to the business.
‘We are required to deliver the mail under our universal service obligation. We are therefore not able to pick and choose the items we should deliver.
‘Marketing mail is a vital form of communication for small and large companies alike. It will be even more important as companies seek to re-engage with their customers whenever the UK returns to normal.’