Postal workers' leaders declared war today on unfair competition which allows private firms to cash in on Royal Mail's public service.
The Communication Workers Union (CWU) is to ballot its members next month with the aim of boycotting private firms' mail.
Under EU competition rules Royal Mail workers have to deliver mail on behalf of private firms which can cherry-pick the most profitable areas.
The practice is causing job losses, price rises and cuts to public postal services as the privateers snap up bulk deliveries and high-density urban areas, leaving Royal Mail with more costly jobs such as rural deliveries.
And unlike Royal Mail private companies do not have to meet service standards or pay decent wages.
The CWU said private competition on deliveries was undermining the same-price-goes-anywhere universal service provided by Royal Mail.
General secretary Billy Hayes said: "Today we're launching a major initiative to protect postal services in the face of mounting threats to jobs and services.
"Under unfair competition we've seen prices rise, services diminish, closures and job losses.
"Competition and privatisation are old-fashioned theories which have had their day. What's important is decent services and jobs and that's what we're standing up for."
Deputy general secretary Dave Ward said: "We are not prepared to stand by and watch the jobs of our members be ruined by unfair competition which could be avoided.
"Boycotting parts of the mail which are damaging services is a proportionate response to the threat posed by unfair competition.
"What we're seeing is private companies being able to do what they want with little concern for how it affects postal services in the round."
The union said private companies' "cherry-picking" of profitable bulk mail contracts takes revenue away from Royal Mail.
The privateers sort and transport mail to a local Royal Mail office where they pay a fee for Royal Mail postmen and women to deliver the mail - known as the "final mile."
Even Royal Mail bosses are concerned about the effect of private firms scooping up the most profitable delivery areas.
A spokesman said: "Currently, competitors are allowed to cherry-pick higher-density, more profitable routes in urban areas and ignore lower-density rural areas where delivery is more costly.
"Under the universal service obligation, Royal Mail is required to deliver a service, with published quarterly standards of service.
"Competitors are not currently required to meet any regulated service standards, and do not need to maintain the high, fixed-cost network that Royal Mail needs to fulfil its obligations.
"Royal Mail supports competition on a level playing field and believes Ofcom should consider competition in the light of its primary duty of securing the six-day-a-week, one-price-goes-anywhere universal service."
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