Smaller, often self-employed postmasters, are fighting to stay afloat, according to a new survey of 1,000 workers.
National Federation of SubPostmasters (NFSP) research found that 22% are planning to close, hand on their business, or downsize in 12 months.
The struggling operators are going without holidays and taking on extra jobs to make ends meet.
Post offices in the UK have almost halved over the last 30 years to around 11,500. Three quarters of postmasters said they earned less than the minimum wage.
Major issues include falling incomes and higher costs, low transaction rates for banking services, more customers using Royal Mail online, and fewer Post Office card accounts.
Andy Furey, of the Communication Workers Union which represents about 500 postmasters, said: “This is a ticking time-bomb.
“Postmasters are handing back the keys because they can’t make a living. The operating model is that they’re simply not paid enough.
“The Post Office and NFSP are sleepwalking into a nightmare. Postmasters have been let down seriously here.”
Calum Greenhow, chief executive of the NFSP said many had no choice but to give it up.
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