UK postal strike is to go ahead A nationwide postal strike will go ahead on Thursday and Friday, the Communication Workers Union (CWU) says.
The action, to begin at midnight, comes amid a row over pay, conditions and Royal Mail's modernisation plans.
The CWU said it also planned further strikes and that it would announce details later in the week.
The union criticised Royal Mail bosses and Business Secretary Lord Mandelson for not getting involved in talks to end the dispute.
Mail centre staff and drivers will strike on Thursday while delivery and collection staff will take action on Friday. 'No trust'
Government sources told the BBC the strike was "something of a tragic matter" and revolved around a dispute over implementing working practices and changes agreed two years ago.
Meanwhile Royal Mail condemned the strikes which it said were "wholly unjustified".
It had earlier issued a last-gasp plea for a "strike-free period of calm" in the run-up to Christmas, saying industrial action would bring "huge damage and distraction" and cause "pain and disruption" for customers.
The CWU's deputy general secretary, Dave Ward, said that progress had been made in the discussions.
But he claimed that agreements struck with negotiators on Tuesday night had been vetoed by Royal Mail managing director Mark Higson - who it accused of overruling a key part of the agreement.
Royal Mail denied this and said it was prepared to sign the agreement it had reached to prevent the strikes being necessary.
The CWU had "no confidence or trust" in either Mr Higson or Royal Mail's chief executive Adam Crozier, Mr Ward said.
And it accused Lord Mandelson of working "hand in hand with Royal Mail" to deliberately undermine the talks, saying the minister had privately expressed his doubts about the capabilities of Royal Mail's management.
Billy Hayes, the CWU's general secretary, labelled Lord Mandelson the "minister without responsibility". Contingency plans
The decision to go ahead with strike action came after more than 30 hours of talks between Royal Mail and the union this week.
The prime minister had urged unions and managers to agree a deal saying a strike would be "counter-productive".
Earlier, in the Commons, David Cameron accused Gordon Brown of lacking the "courage and leadership" to intervene in the postal dispute to prevent two days of planned strikes.
Since plans to part-privatise Royal Mail had been shelved "union militancy has got worse," the Tory leader said.
Mr Brown said that had nothing to do with the dispute and urged unions and managers to agree a deal.
If the strikes continue for a prolonged period, contingency plans for delivery of hospital appointments and medical test results have been drawn up, MPs were told earlier this week.
And it has emerged that the Ministry of Defence may charter extra aircraft to ensure serving troops get their Christmas post. THE BBC