Royal Mail bosses have accused striking workers of plotting to bankrupt the company and force it back into the hands of the taxpayer, amid a deepening row after talks collapsed.

Directors criticised union leaders for saying they were “becoming more comfortable" with the risk of administration during discussions to try to agree a pay deal, according to a letter leaked to the Telegraph.

It comes after negotiations with the Communication Workers Union (CWU) collapsed in the early hours of Wednesday, paving the way for a fresh wave of walkouts that risk delaying deliveries for millions of households.

Sources said that Royal Mail management is increasingly concerned the CWU wants to drive the operation’s UK delivery arm into administration in the hope it would be nationalised as an interim measure, potentially avoiding a radical overhaul required to make the company profitable.

The leaked letter – sent by Royal Mail directors to CWU general secretary Dave Ward – warned the union that nationalisation is not guaranteed if strikes put the firm's finances under unbearable pressure.

Instead, a court could appoint a government administrator which would then “have to take a series of actions that none of us want to see happen”.

A spokesman for the CWU said: “The only people who have put Royal Mail in a difficult financial position are those at the top of the business.

“Negotiations between the CWU and Royal Mail Group concluded...without agreement.”

The collapse of talks followed the rejection of a new 10% pay deal by the CWU.

A spokesman for Royal Mail said: “After 11 months of talks, including mediation by Sir Brendan Barber and Acas, we are deeply concerned that our talks with CWU have concluded without an agreement."

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