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The Barrier to Change in Royal Mail Isn’t the Union – It’s the Management

This week has seen calls in the media for Royal Mail to attack its union – but the real problem with the company isn't the workers, it's the lack of ambition shown by its management.

Following Royal Mail’s shareholder AGM on Tuesday, the media reported that its management board had to defeat its trade unions in order to deliver change.

While I agree with Royal Mail’s chairman that the company is at a crossroads, the biggest threat to its future is not a union that wants to hold onto the past – it’s a board who appear to have no vision of the future beyond becoming just another parcel courier.

This was laid bare at Tuesday’s shareholder meeting when the chairman and interim CEO regurgitated the same lines as the previous CEO, Rico Back, who they axed in May.

In a post-Covid environment, as we face the biggest jobs and economic crisis in our lifetime, society must demand more from its business leaders. As we are seeing in industry after industry, too many are incapable of bringing solutions to the table beyond cutting jobs, pay and services.

The CWU is determined to break this cycle. We are putting forward an alternative plan that builds on the company’s strengths rather than abandoning them.

Firstly, Royal Mail has an unrivalled network. It is the only company in the UK that can deliver to every address, every day.

Leveraging this network, rather than dismantling it, will be crucial to its future success. We accept that this means rebalancing operational resources away from declining letters to a growing parcels market – and, crucially, it means delivering more frequently, not less.

Secondly, Royal Mail has a magical ingredient that Amazon covets. Through its army of postal workers, who always go the extra mile, it owns trust on the doorstep. Expanding the role of the local postie – not diminishing it – must become the central plank of its future strategy.

With its presence in every local community and knowledge of every UK business, Royal Mail can provide an additional range of innovative local services:

  • Delivering prescriptions and medicines
  • Linking up with councils to check on vulnerable residents
  • Supporting the elderly to live independently for longer
  • Providing tailored logistics to small businesses
  • Offering new parcels services
  • Collecting data for local authorities

And that’s only the beginning. In the wake of the pandemic, with the increase of working from home, there has never been a better opportunity for Royal Mail to maximise its relevance to society.

Sourcing ideas from the workforce, using their relationship with customers and tapping into their local knowledge is the vehicle to drive change.

To support this approach, the CWU will launch a major engagement exercise with our members, politicians, businesses, community groups and the public to develop a strategy for a 21st century Royal Mail – one that combines the power of the workforce with the power of modern technology.

Today, we lay down the challenge to Royal Mail management to join us. For the past six months posties across the country have stepped up and delivered in extreme circumstances. It’s now time for the board of the company to match their efforts.