UK postal operator Royal Mail sacks 2,000 staff

LONDON • Britain’s postal operator Royal Mail Group plc, whose workers have helped the nation cope with the coronavirus lockdown, said yesterday that it will axe 2,000 management jobs.

The former state-run company revealed a cost-cutting overhaul in its annual results as it continued to suffer from a slump in its core letters business despite the Covid-19 outbreak had sparked a jump in demand for parcel delivery.

“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 chair Keith Williams said in the earnings statement.

“Covid-19 has accelerated those trends, presenting additional challenges,” he added.

Williams, a former British Airways plc CEO, is heading Royal Mail on a temporary basis after the sudden departure of controversial CEO Rico Back last month.

Back’s 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 face masks, gloves and sanitiser to workers at the start of Britain’s Covid-19 outbreak.

Williams said Royal Mail was cutting costs by £130 million (RM691.60 million), while slashing spending by about £300 million over the next two years.

“Regrettably, we are proposing a management restructure around 2,000 roles,” he added.

Royal Mail employs around 143,000 staff, including nearly 10,000 managers.

Since Britain’s lockdown 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 survive the economic fallout.

Williams praised the company’s workforce despite news of the heavy job cuts.

“I’d like to offer my profound thanks to all my colleagues across the group,” he added.

“Our postmen and women are playing a crucial role in mitigating the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. They are key workers on the frontline.”

The UK government began to relax the nationwide lockdown this month. “The coronavirus outbreak has revealed long suspected weaknesses at Royal Mail,” noted Hargreaves Lansdown equity analyst Nicholas Hyett.

“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% at 168.42 pence following yesterday update. — AFP