UK postal operator Royal Mail sacks 2,000 staff

By: AFP      Published: 05:55 PM, 25 Jun, 2020
UK postal operator Royal Mail sacks 2,000 staff

Britain's postal operator Royal Mail, whose workers have helped the nation cope with the coronavirus lockdown, said Thursday it will axe 2,000 management jobs.

The former state-run company revealed a cost-cutting overhaul in its annual results that showed the COVID-19 outbreak had sparked a jump in demand for parcels. Royal Mail, however, continued to suffer from a slump in its core letters business.

"In recent years, our UK business has not adapted quickly enough to the changes in our marketplace of more parcels and fewer letters," Royal Mail's executive chairman Keith Williams said in a statement. "COVID-19 has accelerated those trends, presenting additional challenges."

Williams, a former British Airways chief executive, is heading Royal Mail on a temporary basis after the sudden departure last month of controversial CEO Rico Back. His exit after less than two years in the role came after union bosses accused the company of being slow to provide protective equipment such as masks, gloves and sanitiser to workers at the start of Britain's virus outbreak.

Williams on Thursday said Royal Mail was cutting costs by £130 million (143 million euro, $161 million), while slashing spend by about £300 million over the next two years. "Regrettably, we are... proposing a management restructure impacting around 2,000 roles," he added.

Royal Mail employs around 143,000 staff, including nearly 10,000 managers. Since Britain's lockdown was imposed on March 23, Royal Mail employees have enjoyed an elevated status with the UK public thanks to their key role in delivering virus test kits and helping businesses to survive the economic fallout.

'Crucial role'

Williams on Thursday praised the company's workforce despite news of the heavy job cuts. "Our UK postmen and women are playing a crucial role in mitigating the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. They are key workers on the frontline," he said.

The UK government began to relax Britain's nationwide lockdown this month. "The coronavirus outbreak has revealed long suspected weaknesses at Royal Mail," noted Nicholas Hyett, equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown. "The group’s been over reliant on the shrinking letters market, and with letter volumes down by a third in recent months that's left it horribly exposed. Meanwhile the lack of investment in parcels infrastructure means catering for the sudden spike in online shopping has seen costs rocket, so that the extra revenue is more of a burden than a blessing."

Royal Mail's share price was down 6.4 percent at 168.42 pence following Thursday's news. The group posted a 13.6-percent drop in underlying operating profits to £325 million in the year to March 29.

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