The Royal Mail was distancing itself today from apparent plans to derecognise its main union as the company braces itself for a national strike.
An internal document suggests Royal Mail bosses have full government support for implementing modernisation plans with or without the agreement of the Communication Workers Union (CWU).
The document came to light after the CWU announced two 24-hour nationwide strikes as the bitter dispute over jobs, pay and conditions deepened. The walkouts will take place on October 22 and 23.
A Royal Mail spokesman said of the document: "No member of the board or the senior management team at Royal Mail has seen, or is aware of any such presentation.
"Royal Mail's policy and strategy in relation to the current dispute with the CWU is to reach agreement so that the CWU calls off its damaging and irresponsible strikes.
"For the avoidance of any doubt Royal Mail has never had any strategy to derecognise the CWU and nor would we seek to do so."
CWU general secretary Billy Hayes said that despite the Royal Mail's denial, he believed a "legitimate document" had been written by management about how to deal with the union.
He said the development was "very worrying", claiming that the Royal Mail did not seem interested in reaching an agreement.
Mr Hayes added: "We are quite happy to go to (conciliation service) Acas. We are interested in compromise, but we seem to have a management that does not seem to want to compromise or go to Acas. I fund that incredible."
The first 24-hour strike will see mail centre staff and drivers walkout, with delivery and collection staff downing tools the next day.
Coming in the wake of a series of regional Royal Mail stoppages, it promises to cause postal chaos for millions of homes and businesses around the country.
Royal Mail's managing director, Mark Higson, said the CWU's strike was an "appalling and unjustified attack" on customers and showed a "reckless disregard" for everyone who depended on the company.
Business Secretary Lord Mandelson branded the move "suicidal".
He said: "I very much regret this decision by the CWU. Taking industrial action will not resolve this dispute. It will only serve to drive more customers away from Royal Mail. One thing this company cannot afford is strikes and industrial action.
"We are, of course, in frequent contact with both management and the union. Our message to them has been clear: put your customers first."
Union sources said the negotiation document was part of a power point presentation made to the company's negotiators on September 26.
No Royal Mail logo or branding appears on the document, entitled "Royal Mail dispute - tactics", according to the sources.
Under a section entitled Objectives, the document reportedly says that the Royal Mail will "deliver the necessary 2009 changes with or without union engagement".
"It appears to be an attempt to break the national leadership of the union. It also lists a series of risks, including the strength of industrial action in London," said one union official.