A string of strikes by Royal Mail workers is set to hit crucial Christmas delivery periods this festive season - with only days left to post to most destinations.
The walkouts by Communications Workers Union (CWU) members in a long-running dispute over pay and conditions is set to stretch right up to Christmas Eve.
Royal Mail has consequently warned customers its last Christmas posting dates will be earlier than usual, prompting a race to get the gift shopping and wrapping done sooner.
Most of the international post cut-off dates have already been and gone.
Senders who didn't post their bulk economy mail within the UK by early December- or to the southern hemisphere by early September - are unlikely be able to promise their recipients they'll get their presents by Christmas this year.
The shorter deadlines to send gifts and cards have been put in place to accommodate expected strike disruption.
A post on the Royal Mail's website warns: "Some dates have changed to accommodate the disruption due to recent CWU industrial action. We recommend you post as early as possible to ensure your Christmas letters and parcels reach their destination in good time."
Online shops and businesses have similarly been advising customers to get their gift orders in early to avoid shipping dates falling after the holidays due to the delays.
In an open letter to customers in which it said it was doing everything it could to settle the industrial dispute, Royal Mail asked people hoping to make Christmas deadlines to send second class post by 12 December and first class post by 16 December.
The absolute final posting date before Christmas is the Special Delivery Guaranteed service on 21 December.
Here is a full list of last Christmas posting dates for December 2022, released by the Royal Mail.
Royal Mail Bulk Mail Economy - Wednesday 7 December
2nd Class, 2nd Class Signed For, and Royal Mail 48 - Friday 16 December
1st Class, 1st Class Signed For, Royal Mail 24 and Royal Mail Tracked 48 - Monday 19 December
Special delivery guaranteed - Wednesday 21 December
Western Europe - Monday 28 November
Cyprus, Eastern Europe, Greece, Iceland, Malta, Turkey - Friday 25 November
Far and Middle East, Hong Kong, Singapore, and South Africa - Friday 14 October
Canada and USA - Monday 31 October
All other non-European destinations (such as Australia, New Zealand, Africa, and the rest of Asia and the Pacific) - Monday 12 September
British Virgin Islands, Dominica and Anguilla - Friday 7 October
All remaining Caribbean destinations, Cyprus and Malta - Friday 2 December
Australia and New Zealand, China (People's Republic) - Monday 28 November
Africa, Asia (except China, People's Republic), Central and South America, Far and Middle East - Thursday 1 December
Greece, Eastern Europe (except Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia) and Turkey - Saturday 3 December
Czech Republic, Finland, Italy, Poland, Sweden, USA and Canada - Monday 5 December
Austria, Denmark, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Switzerland - Wednesday 7 December
Belgium, France, Luxembourg - Friday 9 December
Strikes calendar: Watch our guide on this winter's walkouts timeline
International tracking and signature services
British Virgin Islands, Dominica and Anguilla - Friday 7 October
Australia and New Zealand - Thursday 1 December
China (People's Republic) - Friday 2 December
All remaining Caribbean destinations, Africa, Asia (except China, People's Republic), Central and South America, Far and Middle East - Monday 5 December
Cyprus and Malta - Tuesday 6 December
Greece, Eastern Europe (except Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia) and Turkey - Thursday 8 December
Czech Republic, Finland, Italy, Poland, Sweden, USA and Canada - Friday 9 December
Austria, Denmark, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Slovakia,
Spain, Switzerland - Saturday 10 December
Belgium, France, Luxembourg - Monday 12 December
Why are Royal Mail workers striking?
Around 11,000 members of the CWU have been locked in a dispute over changes to working conditions with Royal Mail, and the row shows little sign of being resolved.
The union claims Royal Mail imposed a 2% pay increase on members without consultation and is “refusing” to treat employees with respect, according to general secretary Dave Ward.
They will walk out again on Sunday, 11 December, with further action planned throughout December including Christmas Eve.
The national strike action dates areL Friday 9 December, Sunday 11 December, Wednesday 14 December, Thursday 15 December, Friday 23 December and Saturday 24 December 2022.
“Royal Mail bosses are risking a Christmas meltdown because of their stubborn refusal to treat their employees with respect,” Mr Ward said.
“Postal workers want to get on with serving the communities they belong to, delivering Christmas gifts and tackling the backlog from recent weeks.
“But they know their value, and they will not meekly accept the casualisation of their jobs, the destruction of their conditions and the impoverishment of their families.
“This can be resolved if Royal Mail begin treating their workers with respect, and meet with the union to resolve this dispute.”
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Royal Mail said it had "well-developed contingency plans" for industrial action: "But we cannot fully replace the daily efforts of our frontline workforce. We’ll be doing what we can to keep services running, but we are sorry this planned strike action is likely to cause you some disruption."
A Royal Mail spokesperson added that it has been in days of talks with the union, but claimed all it received was requests for more pay "without the changes needed to fund the pay offer."
“The CWU know full well that in a business losing more than £1 million a day, we need to agree changes to the way we work so that we can fund the pay offer of up to 9% we have already made.
“While the CWU refuses to accept the need for change, it’s our customers and our people who suffer. Strike action has already cost our people £1,200 each.
“The money allocated to the pay deal risks being eaten away by the costs of further strike action.
“The CWU is striking at our busiest time, deliberately holding Christmas to ransom for our customers, businesses and families across the country.
“We are doing everything we can to deliver Christmas for our customers and settle this dispute. During the last strike days, we delivered more than 700,000 parcels, and more than 11,000 delivery and processing staff returned to work.
“We recovered our service quickly, but the task becomes more challenging as Christmas nears.
“We remain willing to talk at any time about our best and final offer and urge the CWU to call off their damaging strike action.”