Thought leadership

Royal Mail is to cut about a fifth of its management jobs as it struggles to deal with the effects of the coronavirus crisis.

It said the pandemic had accelerated the trend of more parcels and fewer letters being sent, and that it had not adapted quickly enough to that.

The firm wants to make £130m savings. Royal Mail has faced challenges for a number of years, and former chief executive Rico Back made a surprise exit from the business in May.

It currently has about 9,700 managers, with 2,000 jobs expected to be cut after a consultation process.

The job losses will hit senior roles hardest, with half of them set to go, and will mainly fall on so-called “back-office” jobs, including finance, commercial and IT.

Frontline postal staff are unlikely to be affected because Royal Mail needs to preserve “quality of service”, a spokesman said.

Royal Mail’s cull of middle managers – one fifth of the near-10,000 total – is a warm-up for a much tougher set of negotiations with front line staff.

The company has had a fractious relationship with its workforce and the Communication Workers’ Union for several years, and its attempts to change terms and conditions, including pension arrangements, have been fraught with difficulty.

Chairman Keith Williams, who is standing in as chief executive after the abrupt departure of Rico Back last month, is blunt about the need for change, saying the company had “not adapted quickly enough to the changes in our marketplace of more parcels and fewer letters”.

That succinct diagnosis could have been written at any point in the last decade, and it is perhaps slightly surprising that, after more than a decade of organisational reshuffles, the company still has 10,000 people in management roles.

The job cuts are still subject to consultation. The bigger battle, with the CWU, still awaits.

In the year to March 2020 the company made a profit before tax of £180m, down from £241m the year before.

The coronavirus crisis has caused job losses in a number of industries in the UK so far. The aviation industry has been hit particularly hard. On Wednesday, airport ground handling giant Swissport announced it would halve its UK workforce.

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