Royal Mail boss Simon Thompson vows to root out bullying: He admits postal service has a problem and launches drive to heal the ‘scars’ of the past
- Simon Thompson admitted that the postal giant had issues with bullying and he vowed to ‘stop it at source’
- Thompson is also understood to be planning initiatives aimed at improving conditions for workers
- He is also looking at reintroducing a version of the postal cadets scheme which ran from the late 1970s until 1996
The new boss at Royal Mail has launched a major drive to stamp out bullying in its 140,000-strong workforce and heal the ‘scar tissue’ of previous regimes, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.
In a video call with employees, Simon Thompson admitted that the postal giant had issues with bullying and he vowed to ‘stop it at source’.
Thompson is also understood to be planning initiatives aimed at improving conditions for workers – possibly including new electric vans and handheld scanners for use during deliveries.
A good sign?: Simon Thompson admitted that the postal giant had issues with bullying and he vowed to ‘stop it at source’
He is also looking at reintroducing a version of the postal cadets scheme which ran from the late 1970s until 1996 and developed the career of young employees by allowing them to work in every part of the business.
The former Ocado executive, who last year ran the NHS Test and Trace app, joined Royal Mail in January just a month after a landmark agreement with unions following years of rows over pay and conditions.
He is attempting to modernise the delivery firm while repairing relations with union bosses and instilling trust between managers and workers.
Thompson said: ‘The brief I’ve got from the board is to reinvent this British icon for the next generations.’
When asked about repeated claims of bullying by middle managers, Thompson responded: ‘I don’t believe that we’ve ever put in a job advertisement ‘bullies welcome’. I’ve never met somebody I’ve thought was a bully, but it goes on.
‘Maybe there’s something that we are doing that is putting people in the situation where they either feel that’s OK or they feel that’s what they have to do to get the outcome.
‘My overall impression is that people are proud to be here and they’re magnificent people, but [bullying] definitely goes on. It definitely needs to stop.’
Royal Mail last week launched an internal Big Trust Survey aimed at identifying problems and building better relations between employees.
Thompson appealed to staff to come forward with information about the root causes of bullying within the organisation. Employee complaints posted on social media allege postmen and women have felt pressured to take on extra work, while managers have been too focused on taking calls and completing administrative tasks to lead their teams. Management pressure to hit budgets is said to have been unfairly concentrated on the 90,000 postal delivery staff.
One employee wrote: ‘Bullying is a scourge in our service. The Communication Workers Union has been complaining about this issue for decades. Time for a new start with a new attitude to move our workplaces forward.’
Another wrote: ‘Managers make you feel like you’re worthless, even if you give 100 per cent.’ In January, a former manager at Royal Mail’s Cardiff centre won a £230,000 payout after a failure to deal with his complaints about bullying and discrimination contributed to the deterioration of his mental health. He was subsequently dismissed.
Thompson said he was ‘optimistic’ about a trial in one mail office designed to free managers from administrative work to spend more time with their teams and solving customer issues.
The video call was jointly hosted by CWU postal deputy general secretary Terry Pullinger, who claimed that managers had been ‘encouraged to not form relationships’ with workers and to ignore their ideas on best practice. ‘That may be an uncomfortable truth…we absolutely have to get past all that stuff,’ he said.
Thompson said: ‘People do not forget how you’ve made them feel. There is some scar tissue around the place.’
Former boss Rico Back was ousted in May last year by chairman Keith Williams, who ran the firm until Thompson’s arrival. Successive bosses have attempted to modernise the former state monopoly, which was privatised in 2013, while a long-term decline in letter volumes held back revenues.
The pandemic stretched resources and many workers were forced to self-isolate due to the virus, causing delays to deliveries. However, the surge in online shopping as a result of Covid lockdowns has boosted revenues. Profits at Royal Mail are expected to be around £700 million for the past 12 months, compared to £325million a year earlier.
The FTSE250 firm has seen its share price rocket 240 per cent over the past 12 months to £4.97.