Royal Mail is seeking permission from the government to stop making letter deliveries on Saturdays as it tries to reverse its multi-million pound losses in the first half of the year.

Its non-executive chair, Keith Williams, said “urgent reform” was now needed after the business reported a £219m operating loss.

He blamed the impact from ongoing industrial action among frontline workers, as well as weak parcel volumes and an inability to deliver productivity improvements for the poor performance.

“Government has now been approached to seek an early move to five-day letter delivery, whilst we continue to improve parcel services,” he said.

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The group’s international parcels subsidiary, GLS, fared better and reported an operating profit of £162m for H1, although this was down 4.1% due to inflationary pressures.

Williams said: “The difference between the performances of our two companies could not be more stark. GLS has adapted well to inflationary pressures across its geographies.

“However, we have been standing at a crossroads with CWU in the UK for several months.”

The business added that it continued to expect a full year operating loss of around £350m - £450m, including the impact of 12 days of industrial action.

CWU members are currently scheduled to take national strike action on 24, 25, 30 November and 1 December.