Ex-Royal Mail HR manager voices industrial relations ‘frustration’

A former Royal Mail HR manager has spoken out about the “frustrating” way the postal services firm deals with industrial relations, which has ultimately led the organisation to a state of “brinkmanship”.

Speaking exclusively to Personnel Today, the HR professional said Royal Mail should have better communicated with postal unions a long time ago to try to keep them onside regarding the company’s modernisation plans.

Poor handling of negotiations have instead caused the postal services firm and the Communication and Workers Union (CWU) to become locked in a bitter dispute over pay and working conditions, the individual said.

Last month alone, a series of 24-hour strikes caused severe disruption to postal services, costing small businesses tens of millions of pounds in terms of lost orders and extra couriers.

The senior HR practitioner, who has now left the company and wished to remain anonymous, told Personnel Today: “Royal Mail should have sorted out the unions many years ago. The company is hampered by its industrial relations.

“Royal Mail should have taken the opportunity to modernise in partnership with unions on a national, regional and local level before the business got to the brinkmanship state it is currently in.”

The ex-manager added the CWU originally agreed to the job-cut proposals put forward by Royal Mail, but exact details were not drawn up, and poor communications on both sides caused each party to drift further apart.

When asked what was getting in the way of HR doing its job properly, the individual said: “Courage. Both sides didn’t listen to each other [when negotiating]. While each side had merit, they want their heads banging together.”

The former HR boss added: “It was a challenging job, not stressful, and exciting at times – but the work was ultimately frustrating.”

Royal Mail reached an interim peace deal with the CWU earlier this month in a bid to prevent further strikes before Christmas. The union has admitted some redundancies will be necessary as part of plans to reshape the postal firm, but wants to improve job security for the remaining workers before reaching any long-term agreement.

The CWU has said that even though it agreed in 2007 that jobs would need to be lost as part of modernisation plans, specific details were unknown at that time.

Royal Mail has said staffing cuts are inevitable, given that the amount of post it delivers each year is falling by 10%, losing the company £170m a year.

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