A proposed shake-up at the Royal Mail could see millions of Britons waiting until after 6pm to receive their deliveries.
Pressure to ensure parcels and next-day items arrive on time is leading postal bosses to reorganise the way deliveries are made.
Because most online orders are made late at night, post bosses want postal workers to begin rounds later in the day to maximise the chances of customers receiving their purchases the next day.
But in 17 areas, including Abbey Wood in London, Barrow-in-Furness in Cumbria and Truro in Cornwall, Britons could be waiting past 6pm for their packages.
A proposed shake-up at the Royal Mail could see millions of Britons waiting until after 5pm to receive their deliveries
A Royal Mail spokesman insisted all letters would be delivered by 5pm ‘at the latest’ as opposed to the current 4pm cutoff point.
The proposals are likely to be raised in negotiations with the Communications Workers’ Union, which has so far labelled them ‘outrageous’.
The CWU is already planning industrial action after an overwhelming majority of members voted in favour of it, after a row over pay and conditions.
A CWU spokesman said: ‘The changes would see our members delivering for up to five hours in the height of darkness of winter.
‘This is just one example of how Royal Mail are running down the postal service in the UK and why our members are balloting for strike action to defend it.
‘Postal workers need and deserve the support of the public to win this battle.’
The Royal Mail states it gave workers a 2 per cent pay increase back dated from April 1 and is offering the CWU a rise of 3.5 per cent – provided there are improvements in productivity and an overhaul of postal workers’ rosters.
A projected map of the changes suggests that over 100 areas of the UK will receive post after 5pm, including parts of London, Cornwall, Cumbria, Wales and Scotland
A Royal Mail spokesman said: ‘We are in discussion with the Communication Workers’ Union about moving start times later to meet the growing customer demand for more next-day parcel deliveries, and to reduce our environmental impact by moving more mail by rail over time.
‘We have made it clear that these proposal are all subject to negotiation and detailed design, and no plans have been finalised.
‘More parcel companies are now delivering later into the evening to meet changing customer needs, and we are redesigning out network to deal with growing numbers of parcels, including investing in two new super hubs.
‘As part of our ongoing planning and negotiation, we are exploring a number of changes that would mean that we would still deliver letters by 5pm, as opposed to 4pm currently.’