DELAYS in postal deliveries are set to increase after another damaging day of strike action in Oxfordshire yesterday.

No post was sorted at the Oxford mail centre in Cowley as staff joined colleagues across the country in a 24-hour official stoppage which ends at 3am today.

And with delivery workers set to walk out for 24 hours tomorrow, delays are approaching the two-week mark as the backlog of millions of letters and parcels builds up.

Some first class letters received by us yesterday were postmarked July 18, meaning it has taken 12 days for them to be delivered.

Union officials claim backogged mail is being mixed up with newly-posted items, making it impossible to forecast when it will be delivered.

Communication Workers Union (CWU) representative Bob Cullen said: "There are millions of items lying around.

"There were practically no deliveries on Monday, because delivery staff were called in to help sort the backlog.

"But sorting is like a pick and mix - it's pot luck what comes out."

The situation in Oxford has been compounded by the effects of the six-day unofficial local strike, which ended on Sunday, July 22, following the suspension of two workers at the mail centre.

And the situation in some areas of the city, such as Botley Road, Osney and Abingdon Road, was exacerbated by last week's floods which meant deliveries were not made to houses at risk of flooding.

Royal Mail managers admit the unofficial action has led to long delays as they battle with the escalation of the national strike, while trying to clear the effects of the local wildcat walkout.

Royal Mail spokesman Sue Dakin said: "Throughout the official action we have been sorting mail by date order, but with the unofficial strike, clearly in some cases that has not been achievable and we apologise to customers.

"We will be working through the disruption to collect and deliver letters for our customers as quickly as we can.

"Royal Mail remains ready to meet the union leadership yet again at any time to explain its position and the reality of the open marketplace in which we now operate."

The national strike action centres around the rejection of a 2.5 per cent pay claim and continuing job losses in the service.

Customers who have had items of first class mail delayed for more than five days due to strike action can claim compensation of up to £10 per item.

For more information, call Royal Mail customer services on 08457 740740 or the industry regulator Postwatch on 08456 013265.